A house fire is one of those things that you think can never happen to you. Unfortunately, they do happen, and we are all at risk of being victim to them. In the US alone, there is a house fire every 87 seconds, which equates to approximately a half million people in the US per year. Chances are fairly slim that it will happen to you, but it is something for which every household should be prepared; you need to protect not only your property, but also your life and the lives of those around you. As we all know, the results of a house fire are devastating due to the loss of assets, memories, and people.
Recently, my insurance agent sent out an email as a reminder that house fires do happen, and she gave some good tips with regards to being prepared in case of one. Most of us know that we need smoke detectors, but how often should we check the batteries? What do we need to know about our homeowners insurance coverage? Here are some tips from my insurance agent along with some tips of my own:
1. Smoke Detectors & Alarms
- Smoke detectors are useless if they don’t work. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 46% of people who lived through a house fire thought that their smoke detectors were working at the time of the fire. Check your detector monthly to ensure that you can rely on it.
- Dead batteries are a common cause of smoke detector failure. Always have batteries on hand, and make sure you change the smoke detector batteries every 6 months.
- Smoke detectors do not last forever. In fact, most smoke detectors are the ionization type and need to be replaced about every 10 years. Check with your manufacturer to find out what recommendations they have with regards to replacement.
- Location, location, location. Make sure you have detectors near the home entry as well as near bedrooms.
- Keep smoke detectors away from air ducts in an effort to prevent debris buildup. Also, position detectors at least 6 inches from where the wall meets the ceiling.
2. Fire Extinguishers
- You should have one of these on every floor.
- Keep them close to where fires most commonly break out, such as the kitchen, laundry room, and garage.
3. Evacuation Plans
- Don’t just have one plan for exiting your your home; have two plans in case one of the evacuation routes is blocked by the fire or smoke.
- Fire deaths are higher among children and the elderly. If you have children or elderly people in your home, make sure you are able to account for their needs. If they are immobile, you will need to find a way for someone to assist them to get out of the house. If they are able to get out of the house on their own, practice a fire drill so that you can have peace of mind knowing they will be prepared.
- If there is a fire in your home, do not attempt to get anything. However, if your keys, wallet, or cell phone are somewhere conveniently along your exit route, grab them. They may come in handy later.
- Designate a meeting place for when you are able to get out of your home. The scene may be a little chaotic, and you will want to make sure your family members are safe.
- Know how much of your “main dwelling” (the physical structure of your home) your homeowners insurance covers in the event of a fire. This is known as Coverage A in the breakdown of your homeowners insurance. It does not include the contents of your home or the land, but only the structure.
- Make sure that you have proper coverage over your personal property (Coverage C). If your house were to catch on fire, would you have significant coverage for your “stuff”? If you are a renter, make sure you have renter insurance to protect your personal property.
- Take pictures and make a video of everything that is in your home and on your property. Keep a copy of the pictures and video at a friend or family member’s home so that it would not be destroyed in case of a disaster. Also, email yourself a copy of the documents or use online storage. This will help you provide the necessary evidence to prove what you lost in the fire.
- Have a fire-proof safe to store all your important documents. Also, keep a copy of these documents with someone you can trust.
- After a house fire, call your insurance agent right away so that you can get the ball rolling on your claim.
Hopefully you will never have to deal with a house fire, but please be prepared for one anyway. In the rare event that you do have a house fire, you will not regret the time and energy you spent preparing for it. The preparation could be priceless.
Have you ever had to deal with a house fire?
(Photo Credit: dvs)