Fire is something the majority of homeowners fear most – even more so in the drought-ravaged west where wildfires can occur at any time. And, watching your home, valuables, and family treasures literally go up in smoke can be traumatic and heart breaking. While homeowners insurance can help ease some of the pain, it’s still hard to fully come back from, especially if a family member or pet perishes in the fire.
Although fires can be unpredictable most of the time, living in areas prone to wildfires increases the chances of a destructive fire claiming your home. That said, fires can happen anywhere, and home fires resulting in loss of life mostly occur within an urban environment.
In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2013, the most recent year for such data, U.S. fire departments responded to approximately 1.2 million fires nationwide. Of those, some 3,240 people, not including firefighters, lost their lives that year, and 2,755 of them died in home fires.
But, you can still take 3 proactive steps to protect your home, yourself, and your loved ones before disaster strikes. Here are three things you should do:
1. Your insurance
You may want to start with your homeowners policy. Make sure you have full coverage on your home and that it is insured at current value so you don’t end up on the short end should a fire destroy it. Demonstrate to your insurer that you have taken steps to make your house safe from fire. This is most important in areas susceptible to wildfires where heavy brush can greatly contribute to hazardous conditions. Clearing dry grass and brush around your home can help reduce the risk and impress your insurance company enough that it could save you money on your premium.
2. Install or make sure your smoke alarms are in working order
Sadly, more people die due to the lack of or because of non-functioning smoke alarms. Many of these people would have survived had the warning sound alerted them a fire had broken out. Generally, smoke alarms are relatively inexpensive as are replacement batteries and both could make the difference between living and dying in the event of a fire.
According to experts, the best smoke detector is a working smoke detector – and, if possible, to get the type of detector that’s interconnected with the other smoke detectors in your house. In other words, if a smoke detector goes off in the kitchen, all of the other detectors would also go off at the same time.
To keep you safe, the National Fire Protection Association recommends replacing your smoke alarm every 10 years. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking the recommendation a step further as he reviews a bill that, if passed, would require all stores in New York state to sell smoke alarms that have a 10-year, non-removable battery, starting in 2017. The hope is that someday this will be the industry standard.
3. Keep your home from being fire-prone
This means – avoid storing hazardous or flammable liquids in your garage or near and around your home. Rags soaked in cleaning solvent as well as gasoline, lighter fluid and turpentine can be highly volatile if stored near a water heater or other flash source that could ignite the fluids or the vapors.
Routine maintenance tasks, such as clearing brush, overgrown trees and dried grass aren’t just smart to do for your home, but they’ll also help reduce your risk of having a fire.
Remember – not all fires are preventable – but, you can do your share to lower the chances of a home fire by simply keeping these three steps in mind and having a family escape plan should a fire break out.
You may also want to keep your homeowners insurance in mind when it comes to protecting your investment and your safety. Don’t cut corners. Make sure you’re getting the best homeowners insurance rates available. Call Freeway Insurance at (800) 777-5620 to get a free quote from a live agent. You can also get a free homeowners insurance quote online.