Are you prepared for a house fire?

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Install smoke detectors to save lives

Don’t Let Your Dreams Go Up in Smoke!

What would you do if your home was on fire?  Do you have a plan?  Are you insured properly?

According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the loss resulting from fires is approximately $8.6 billion annually.   House fires are the No. 1 cause of accidental deaths among children under the age of 5 and 90% of those fire deaths occurred in homes without functioning smoke detectors.

Southern Platte Fire Protection District Fire Marshal, Dean Cull, said there are three crucial things to do to make sure you are prepared for the unexpected:

  • TWO ESCAPE ROUTES: Make sure to have two escape routes from each room, especially bedrooms.  e. if there is a fire and you are in bed, the hallway may not be an option to escape.  Have another route.
  • EXTINGUISHERS AND LADDERS: Be sure to have fire extinguishers in your home and ladders to escape from everyone bedroom. A fire extinguisher can help prevent a small fire from becoming a large one.  It’s recommended to keep an extinguisher in your garage, kitchen and near your fireplace or wood burning stove.
  • FIRE ALARMS: Install a fire alarm in every bedroom.  Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.  The life expectancy of fire alarms is about 10 years.

Cull suggested creating a plan for your family and provided the following website as a tool in writing your plan:  www.preparemetrokc.org/myplan

Cull shared some information from the USFA in which they recommends paying close attention to heating equipment during the cooler months:

  • Regularly maintain your furnace.
  • Clean the area around the furnace and not stack items near it.
  • Keep space heaters at a safe distance from furniture, curtains, bedding, etc. It is suggested to keep heaters at least 3 feet away from items that can burn
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist. Make sure it has a sturdy screen to catch sparks.
  • Check all electrical cords from fraying or loose connections. Replace any damaged cords and do not overload an outlet.  Electrical wires can become extremely hot and start fires also.
  • Inspect your electrical box annually. Replace broken fuses and do not overload a fuse.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms outside each bedroom.
  • Keep the cooking area clean to avoid grease fires. Keep flammable items away from a gas cooktop and your BBQ grill.

Not only is prevention key, but so is making sure you are properly insured in case of a disaster.  Jim McCall with Country Financial suggests everyone make sure their standard homeowners insurance covers fires and confirm the coverage limits. McCall explains that one policy will differ from another in various terms and suggest you look for complete protection.  Fire insurance is protection from the cost of repairing damages caused by a fire breakout and a typical policy usually covers adjacent structures. The best thing to do when insuring for fire is to insure the actual value of your home.  Insurance companies will take into consideration the base rebuilding costs calculated on the square footages.

McCall suggests every homeowner keep a file with accurate records of your home’s measurements, including total square footage, room sizes and storage/garage spaces.  He provides all of his clients with an inventory log.  This room by room inventory log allows the homeowner to track model numbers, year purchased and a place to keep receipts for large purchases like furniture and electronics. He also encourages clients to video record each room to show your personal belongs.  Then, be sure to store this information in a safe deposit box.

Top 10 tips when buying fire insurance

  1. Don’t assume that the fire insurance policy covers the contents of your house. You should always clarify with your insurance company what a policy covers and not base your actions on assumptions.
  1. Don’t assume the policy covers the cost of replacing damaged personal property. There are policies that cover the actual cost value of items at the time they were destroyed from fire because replacement cost coverage usually are a little more expensive.
  1. Don’t buy a policy for the low deductibles.  If you decide on a plan with high deductibles, you will get a higher discount on the policy.
  1. Know what the fire insurance policy covers and/or does not cover. Some perils are not covered by fire insurance: Fire arising from riots, an earthquake or any other natural calamity; theft or burglary during or after a fire breakout.
  1. Check with your insurance agent about the specific coverage options.
  1. Shop around for the best fire insurance rates possible. Compare several fire insurance policies at the same time to get the best offer.
  1. Start with your current insurance company. Most offer discounts for multiple policies from the same company.
  1. Use fire detectors that help get more discounts. If you have a smoke, fire and other detectors, this will help getting additional discounts from the insurance company.
  1. Do a background check on the insurance company before purchasing a policy. A company that is not financially stable will give you trouble when you have to file a claim.
  1. Have a written or video inventory of the belongings of your home for proof of your belongs and their condition.

Don’t become another statistic. Take proactive actions to protect your family’s largest investment – your home.  For more information on fire tips, visit www.nfpa.org and www.sparky.com

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*This article was originally published in North Magazine, September/October 2014

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