Wildfires Burning, but Arizona Home Insurance Buyers Urged to Get Flood Insurance?

Arizona Flood Insurance due to wild firesWildfires continue to rage all over Arizona, and news agencies ABC15CBS5 and AzFamily report progress as each is managed and eventually extinguished. When the wildfires are gone, so is the Earth’s natural protection. The loss of underbrush and rooted plants can cause many problems. You would think that the primary concern for homeowners in regions prone to wildfires would be to carry homeowners coverage to protect their buildings and personal property.

So why are residents being encouraged to purchase flood insurance in the midst of so many wildfires? Consider these facts:

  • Wildfires destroy vegetation such as underbrush and trees.
  • The loss of this vegetation through intense fire leaves only charred ground.
  • Ground that is burned no longer has the ability to easily absorb water.
  • The increased run-off of rainwater can cause mudflow or flooding.
  • The areas at greatest risk are downstream or downhill from burned areas..
  • The risks are more substantial during spring thaws, heavy rains, or winter storms.

What are the risks? Loss of property ranks highest with a flood. According to recent reports:

From 2002 to 2011, total flood insurance claims averaged more than $2.9 billion per year. In high-risk areas, there is at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. However, losses due to flooding are not covered under typical homeowners and business insurance policies.

How can homeowners protect themselves?

The unfortunate answer is that there are very few ways to reduce your risks of damage from floods or mudflows. The debris and silt that accompany these conditions also increase the level of damage. Until the vegetation returns to a healthy level in the areas affected by the wildfires (uphill or upstream from these burned areas), the ground is simply unable to absorb or reduce the flow of rainwater and snow melts. These simple steps can improve your conditions should you find yourself faced with potential flooding:

  • Avoid loss of life or injuries, evacuate. Planning ahead for a safe location to move out of harm’s way ensures that there is no loss of life.
  • Important papers and valuables should be kept in a waterproof safe, or in a waterproof place such as a safe deposit box.
  • Take an inventory of your assets. Photos and descriptions will help you estimate your losses if you are affected by a flood.

The real solution? Flood insurance. When homeowners examine their current policies they find that they must purchase separate coverage for flood-related incidents. Ultimately, the best solution is protection through a flood insurance policy. As homeowners insurance specialists, we understand the needs of our region- this is our home, too. Our goal is to help you assess what coverages you need, whether you have the right coverage in place, and to fill any gaps that exist in your homeowners policies. We know that expenses after a flood can cause high out-of-pocket expenditures, and we want to help you reduce your risk of loss. Whether you live in a high flood zone or one that is less at risk (incidentally, more than 20% of claims come from low to moderate risk areas), there are solutions.

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Insurance Agents in Arizona Talk About Break-ins

Arizona homeowners are being confronted with a rise in property crimes not just in their homes, but in their cars and storage areas. Crime statistics for 2010 show that “the city property crime rate in Phoenix was higher than the national property crime rate average by 35.05%.” Based on these and other statistics, given that the total burglary reports for Phoenix in 2010 amounted to 15,626, and the projected burglary rate for Phoenix in 2013 is 17,080. Your insurance agents want to help you make sure that your property doesn’t become part of these statistics.

To start with, here is an interesting infographic that covers many of the basic facts and statistics regarding residential break-ins. Since this information was compiled by a security system provider, it naturally promotes the use of home alarms. A security system is an important component of an overall plan, but they are too often defeated by the owners themselves. Nothing will substitute for awareness. Set the alarm for the day when you’re at work, not only at night.

It’s not just that the number of break-ins is increasing, but the types of break-ins have changed. Since more people are using garage door openers with remotes in cars, a burglar will break into a car in the driveway in order to get the remote. That’s often enough to gain entry into the house, as many residents neglect to lock the doors between the house and the garage. Remove remotes from cars parked outside. Lock your car each time you leave it.

Vacant houses are a burglar magnet because it’s so easy to tell that they’re unoccupied. An overgrown yard, shuttered windows, no cars in front, unused trash cans that are never put on the curb, notices or flyers flapping on the doors— all these signs are invitations to break in or vandalize. If a tenant can’t be found immediately, hire a property manager to check the premises daily.

It’s also become common for burglars to pose as work crews. They will drive around hauling trailers with yard equipment, shovels, pvc pipes, or other tools that give them the appearance of being on a job. It’s the most natural thing in the world to see a man walking around a house with a shovel on his shoulder, carefully examining landscaping or the foundation, and to assume he’s from a nearby nursery or a foundation repair company. What he’s actually doing, however, is looking for security wires, a vulnerable door, or a partially hidden window. Know what’s going on in your neighborhood. Look for company signage on any work trucks.

Finally, one of the most depressing trends in break-ins is the number of them that occur during summer vacation or school holidays. Unsupervised teens have been known to break into neighbors’ homes for a number of reasons:

(1) They’re familiar with the area; they know who goes to work during the day or who is away on vacation. They know who has the expensive toys and who does not have a dog or a security system.

(2) They’re bored, looking for some excitement, or trying to build up a reputation.

(3) They don’t like certain neighbors and want to exact a little revenge for a perceived wrong.

Get to know your neighbors. Take extra precautions during school breaks.  

Don’t Let a Fire Take Everything! Make Sure Your Insurance is Current

Phoenix AZ Home FireIt’s a sign of the times. A recent news report from Arizona’s abc15.com tells the heartbreaking story of a young woman trying to save money.

A young woman was in the process of foreclosing on her condo. She was packed and ready to move. She had cancelled her homeowner’s insurance policy just before a fire burned down her condo and caused damage to two other units.

As a state with a history of hot, dry weather and raging fires, many residents know how easy it would be for their property to go up in flames. That’s why it is important to take every precaution possible to protect your home by having the right insurance policy.

Take Proactive Steps Before a Fire

Don’t take chances. Don’t think it will never happen to you. Take the right steps before anything goes wrong.

Here are steps to consider to help prevent house fires, according to the National Institute of Fire and Safety Training:

  • Don’t leave cooking unattended.
  • Never cook when you are drowsy.
  • Keep combustibles at least three feet away from heat sources.
  • Never smoke when lying down.
  • Test your smoke detectors on a monthly basis.
  • Replace smoke detectors every 10 years.
  • Develop an escape plan and practice it every six months.
  • Equip your home with the necessary safety equipment, such as smoke detectors, escape ladders, and fire extinguishers.
  • Sleep with your bedroom doors closed.
  • If a smoke detector goes off during the night, feel the bedroom door with the back of your hand before opening it. If it is hot, do not open it.
  • Make sure that you are able to contact the fire department from any room in your house—in case you are trapped.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors every six months.
  • Be careful not to overload electrical outlets.
  • Unplug appliances when they are not being used.
  • Schedule an annual home-fire safety inspection.

Additionally, for insurance purposes, be sure to document your belongings with photos or videos and keep a list of your possessions. Remember to:

  • Make a list your belongings and valuables.
  • Take photos of every room.
  • Keep a copy of documents off-site.

Preparing in advance will help get your insurance claim settled faster.

What to Do After a Fire in Your Home

Dealing with the aftermath of a home fire is very emotional. However, here are some fire damage experts to help get you back on your feet quickly:

  • After a fire, don’t enter the house without an okay from the fire department. First, you want to make sure the blaze is out. Second, you need to ensure the structure is sound.
  • Call your insurance carrier right away in order to start the reimbursement process. Additionally, your insurance agent can assist with other needs such as emergency lodging, hiring a cleanup crew, and the steps you need to take to rebuild.
  • Homeowners insurance typically covers you in case of fire, except when they prove arson. If you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll have documentation to support your loss.
  • Speaking of documentation, be prepared to provide the insurance company with copies of your inventory list and photos or videos of your possessions.
  • Obtain a fire report from the fire department.
  • If you home isn’t completely burned, secure any personal items to prevent looting. Otherwise, your insurance company may hold you liable for its replacement.

Dealing with a home fire is devastating. What is even worse is not having the right insurance coverage if this happens. Make sure your policy is up to date today by calling your insurance agent!

Some Tips BEFORE the Disaster Hits

Hello homeowners, we are homeowners insurance with offices located in Mesa, Gilbert, Tucson and Phoenix. We want to pass along some advice for you regarding your homes and homeowners insurance that you should be looking at today! Start with your TTD – THINGS TO DO list.

With all the devastation in our surrounding states from forest fires, we’d like to bring you some advice.

Before the fire or disaster strikes, do this, like, right NOW:

A)    Plan ahead. If family members are away from home, arrange ahead of time a DCP – designated convenient place to meet away from your home or the possible disaster in your area. Pick a gas station, convenience store, grocery store, maybe a mall, or a school, somewhere YOU all know EXACTLY where to go to meet up, this is your DCP and #2 on your TTD list. Keep in mind, family members must be prepared for this as well, regardless of where you are, you may not be able to get back to your home, you may have to depend on a son or daughter who is at home to do this, so run down the list of TTD with them beforehand, walk thru it once or twice a year. Update it as you need to.

B)    Plan ahead. Tell ALL family members where you will be planning to go, pick a motel or hotel 20 miles away, write down their phone number on your TTD list, plan on calling them for a reservation when the evacuation order comes. MAKE it number 3 on your TTD. Next, pick an alternate motel or hotel that is 30 miles away, write down that phone number on your TTD list, if you cannot get a reservation at No. 3, this is your number 4 – TTD, your contingency plan, communicate this with ALL family members! Put this TTD LIST of Things To Do and let your entire family know where it is, or better yet, give a copy to your neighbors and your closest family members.

C)    Have you got a pet (or pets)? Make sure you have a weeks supply of food for each pet set aside. Put this food and where it’s stored on your list of TTD as #5.

D)    As you make your TTD List, keep in mind how much space your vehicle has, will it (whatever IT is that you are wanting to take with you) fit with everything else on the list?  Keep this in mind when you organize your TTD. Be prepared to leave sentimental objects behind, you will NOT have time to dwell on it later.

E)    INVENTORY – Take a pad of paper and walk through your home and write down everything you have, include taking picture,s which are also helpful.  Download your pictures to a flash drive for convenience, but either have a flash drive OR get actual pictures and assemble them all together (pictures should include all room furniture, unique items, grandfather clocks, fine art, jewelry, electronics, heirloom items, irreplaceable items, and collectibles). Put this inventory paper in a safe place, ready to go. Include this INVENTORY on your TTD list.

F)    BUNDLE – collect the most important papers and keep them in a safe and secure location that you can easily open, grab the bundle, and go. This should include: your family’s birth certificates, social security cards, passports, insurance papers, car titles, and all photos taken of your home possessions and valuables, either the actual prints OR the flash drive that has the pictures. Include this BUNDLE of paperwork on your TTD list.

G)    Make a list of irreplaceable family pictures that you do not want to lose, this should be a picture checklist, and when you are told to evacuate, grab this checklist and gather up ONLY what you have written down beforehand, you will NOT have time to get sidetracked once the evacuation order comes! Include this on your TTD list.

When ordered to evacuate, keep your time in mind, hurry, but be organized (be aware, it’s possible you may NOT have 30 minutes, maybe 10 or  or even less!):

A)    TTD #1 – Get your family and pets in the car.

B)    TTD #2 – Contact immediate family members and tell them to muster at the pre-designated meeting place, you are evacuating.  KISS – keep it short and simple. This is your No.2 TTD item. Do NOT plan on having family or friends come to your home once the evacuation order is placed, all roads lead OUT and to safety.

C)    Proceed with your TTD list of THINGS TO DO.

D)   Focus on driving safely. Get to your motel/hotel safely.

E)    RECEIPTS – Typically your homeowners insurance policy will cover reasonable expenses for room and meals. Save your receipts if you are told to evacuate your home by emergency personnel. Most policies cover this but have daily limits.

F)    Once you have reached your safe hotel/motel, THEN contact family & friends and inform them of same.

If you need help accessing your homeowners policy for disasters and the like, we’re here. Contact your insurance agent before you actually need us. Our advice is free. Bring your inventory list with you.

Protecting Against Roof Repair Scams

It is that time of year again… Monsoon Season!

photo from boomerinthepew.com

During Monsoon Season, homeowners experience the beauty and splendor of the Arizona terrain. Flowers are in bloom thanks to more rainfall, hail and the beauty of our sunsets is magnified. It is the time of year when the animals come out in force- more than any other time of the year. Everything is radiant, until one morning when you look up and see what you have been dreading since the rains first started. Nightmares of that last hail storm begin flooding your dreams: roof damage. This damage is of course, not always delivered in the form of hail. Tree branches and high winds can add damage to already aging roofs and deteriorate living conditions and affect the costs of utilities over time if repair is stalled for too long.

An even bigger hazard to your health, your roof, your wallet AND you standing with your insurance are roof repair scams. Everyone has heard the horror stories of scam artists who took their victim’s insurance money and disappeared into thin air, leaving behind unfinished work or not showing up to do work at all. We have found through the years of taking calls from clients that not all roofing contractors are the same.

Here are a few tips to help protect you from roof repair scams:

Take the time to shop around: There is no shame in getting multiple quotes from different roofing companies. Go for it! In addition, your insurance agent may even be able to provide a list of roofing companies or refer you to roofing contractors that are located in your area. But you will never know if you don’t ask.

Don’t find yourself in high pressure situations: If a salesman is trying to pressure you or if something just doesn’t feel right about it- listen to your gut instincts. A good roofing contractor will work with you in order to get your business, not pressure you into a contract.

Research all roofing companies that you are considering: Before you begin deciding which roofing company you want to use, make sure that they are a legitimate business with a license to do home repair work in Arizona. The presence of a contractor’s license is very important as it can help to identify whether or not the company is a legitimate business. You can look up license numbers and get more information at the Arizona Contractor License Center.

In addition to the above website, you can also refer to websites such as the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) or websites such as Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com), which can aid you through reviews written by previous customers (however, you should always take these reviews with a grain of salt).

-Don’t be afraid to ask questions: This is your roof. It is something that will be hanging over your head (literally), for quite some time. Asking questions is not a bad thing. Often times, a good company will encourage asking questions.

NEVER pay prior to repairs: One staple of being scammed is that the salesman will want the money before the work is started. So don’t give the full amount until the work is complete. Some roofing companies do require money before hand, but a legitimate contractor or roofing company shouldn’t ask for the full amount prior to completing the project.

Storm Damage:

If you do have storm damage and you have extensive water damage in your home, you should call a water damage repair contractor. Many times you will have a tree that has fallen and you need a tree removal company.

For more tips and articles regarding insurance, please visit: Arizona Capital Insurance.

Keep Your Pool Safe and Prevent Insurance Claims

As the summer heats up, many Arizona residents want to cool off in their own pool. While splashing around in the water can be a great source of family entertainment, backyard pools can also be potential liabilities. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I):

There are over 3,400 fatal accidental drownings in the U.S. annually, with children ages one to four having the highest drowning rates. Fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury related deaths for children ages one to 14 years old, according to the CDC. In addition, for every child who dies from drowning another four children will be treated for “nonfatal submersion injuries” which can cause brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities including memory problems, learning disabilities and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g. permanent vegetative state).

Pool owners need sufficient liability coverage to cover their pool. Most homeowners insurance policies have at least $100,000 of liability protection. However, since pools are considered an “attractive nuisance,” homeowners may need additional liability coverage. The I.I.I. recommends at least $300,000 to $500,000 of liability coverage for pool owners. Homeowners also need enough insurance coverage to replace the pool if it is destroyed by a natural disaster.

Homeowners need to be aware that they can be liable for damages even if the person injured was using the pool without permission. In addition to purchasing sufficient liability coverage, homeowners should also consider the following safety precautions:

  • Completely surround the pool with a four sided fence that is at least 5 feet high, as required by law. If a residence makes up one side of the pool enclosure, there must be a barrier between the home and the pool that is at least four feet high.
  • Install an appropriate pool cover. Arizona requires a motorized, key-locking, ASTM approved pool cover.
  • Layer child safety measures such as pool alarms that sound when a child enters the water, self-closing latches that prevent a child from opening the pool gate, and alarms on exterior doors or windows that will alert when doors leading to the pool are opened.
  • Install a VBG compliant pool filter. Keep children away from pool filters or other suction devices and make sure that supervising adults know how to shut down the filter in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure that pool guests know how to swim. Proficient swimmers should accompany beginners, and adults should supervise children at all times.
  • Have emergency supplies such as ring buoys, reaching poles, and a first aid kit easily accessible. Post emergency numbers on the phone. Keep a phone close to the pool.
  • Regularly check the pool area for hazards such as glass bottles or toys that could cause an accident. Keep radios or other electronic devices away from the pool.
  • Restrict alcohol use near the pool. Alcohol is involved in almost half of water related deaths for both adults and teens.
  • Learn basic life-saving techniques such as rescue breathing and CPR.

Taking these basic safety precautions can help you and your friends safely enjoy your pool this summer. Pool safety doesn’t just prevent claims on your homeowners insurance policy, it also saves lives.

For more information on pool safety, you can view the state guidelines at the Arizona Department of Health Services website.

Prepare for Fire Season by Evaluating Your Homeowners Insurance

The 2012 Arizona wildfire season has already started, and the U.S. Forest Service estimates that the 2012 season could be as bad as the historic 2011 fire season. The 2012 National Seasonal Assessment predicts an “above normal significant fire potential” for the mountains, with a normal significant fire potential predicted for other parts of Arizona. As of May 16, the Gladiator Fire had already destroyed four structures and threatened almost 400 more.

There are several steps homeowners can take to prevent fire damage to their property, including using fire resistant materials, providing a firebreak, and creating a defensible space around structures. If the worst does happen, homeowners also need to be sure that they are adequately insured to cover a catastrophic loss of their homes. The Insurance Information Institute lists four key questions homeowners should ask to ensure adequate coverage in case of a disaster:

    1. Is my insurance coverage enough to rebuild my home at today’s costs?

Insuring your home for its value may not be enough to rebuild your home at the price of current construction. Adequate coverage should include a replacement cost policy that will pay for the replacement of damaged property with comparable materials. Arizona homeowners might also want to consider an extended replacement policy that will pay an additional 20% above policy limits if a disaster–such as a widespread wildfire–raises the cost of materials and labor. Other options include inflation or ordinance riders which help cover the impact of inflation or new ordinances on construction costs.

    1. Is my insurance coverage enough to replace all of my possessions?

Most homeowners insurance policies cover possessions at a rate of 50-70% of the amount of insurance on the structure of the home. A home inventory is the best way to determine if this is enough coverage to replace your personal possessions if they are lost to a fire or other disaster. You can insure your personal possessions by either a cash value or replacement cost policy. Cash value policies cover the cost of replacing your property after depreciation. Replacement cost policies cover the replacement cost of your possessions at today’s prices. Your insurance agent can help you determine whether a cash or replacement policy is the best option for you.

    1. Will my insurance cover my extra expenses if my home is destroyed?

If your home is destroyed in a wildfire or other disaster, there will be additional expenses beyond replacing your home and possessions. Coverage for additional living expenses would pay for the extra cost of living away from home and includes expenses such as hotel bills and restaurant meals. It could also cover lost rental income if you rent out a portion of your property.

    1. Will my homeowners insurance adequately protect my assets?

This question isn’t directly related to disaster planning, but it is still an important factor in evaluating your homeowners insurance needs. Liability damage protects you against claims made for bodily injury or property damage caused by you, a family member, or a pet. Liability damage covers court costs as well as any costs incurred in a court judgment up to the limits of your policy. Additional coverage beyond your policy limits is available in the form of an excess liability or umbrella policy.

Wise preparation for fire season should include making sure your home is adequately insured. Your insurance agent can help you evaluate your insurance needs.

How to Head-off Potential Claims on Your Homeowners insurance policy

Now that you’ve purchased your homeowners insurance, it’s time to think about steps you can take to prevent, or lessen, future homeowners insurance claims.

Here are some tips that might help in keeping the homeowners insurance claims adjuster away:

  • Buy enough coverage: Find out what it would cost to rebuild your house in your area. Want to keep the same look to the house? Ask a builder for an estimate on the cost to rebuild. Don’t skimp on coverage, and forget about paying that little extra for that piece of mind for insuring your home and belongings.
  • Bring on the fire department: Ask your local fire station to come by your house and do a fire safety inspection- and include your kids when they come to your house. Spotting fire hazards and fixing them will certainly pay off in the long run.
  • Insure that Picasso: Okay, maybe you don’t have a Picasso hanging in your entryway, but you might have a few, so-called luxury items like jewelry and an heirloom desk sitting in the den. Make sure you have the ‘rider’ for coverage, if needed.
  • Water… water: Everywhere. If only you would’ve changed that leaky hose on the washing machine before you left on vacation. Do a survey of your in-house connections. Sprinkler system? Make sure the automatic timer is working correctly and not ‘hanging up’ for hours on that station by your basement window. 
  • Accidents waiting to happen: Walkways and steps invite all sorts of potential for liability claims from strangers or friends coming to your property. Make sure step rails and decking are in good repair. 
  • Wind and hail: It’s not uncommon, or rare, for a major onslaught of wind and hail to hit parts of Arizona. Heed warnings by battening down patio furniture, or screen doors…and even keep tree limbs trimmed back. 

It makes good sense to review your homeowners insurance coverage with your insurance agent at least once a year.

 

Home Insurance Hints to Keep Burglars Away

Summer is approaching quickly in Arizona, which means the heat is coming on strong. For you, that means it is time for a short getaway, or maybe a lengthier vacation, for some time to cool off and refresh your body from the heat. As you’re getting ready to go, you are checking your to-do list before you head out. Clothes and shoes packed? Check. Toothbrush and toothpaste? Check. Sudoku puzzles and iPad charger? Check. Things are looking good, your bags are packed and you’re ready to go.

But, wait. Did you burglar-proof your home? The last thing you need to happen while you’re gone is to have someone break into your home and damage or steal your valuables, which would lead to a home insurance claim.

Let’s rewind back to that check list and let’s add some more steps to ensure that you don’t leave home with a huge sign on your house that reads “NO ONE HOME. BURGLARS WELCOME!”

What you want is to prevent any need to file a claim with your home insurance. To allow that, below are a few helpful tips for how to fool those burglars into thinking you are actually at home.

-Keep your mail and papers away

Call your local post office and your newspaper agency. Have both your mail and newspapers held while you are gone. Having a collection of papers on the lawn or mail spilling out of the mailbox are both obvious signs that someone might not be home. If you are unable to hold your mail and papers, an alternative would be to ask a trusted neighbor to come each day and gather your papers and mail until you get home.

-Turn your lights on and off

You might be wondering how this is possible if you are not at home. It’s actually pretty easy with some simple timers in place. Attach some timers to a few lamps around your house and set them to turn on and off intermittently throughout the day and evening. If a light is on, a burglar is less likely to come lurking nearby. At the same time, though, if a light is on non-stop, a burglar might get suspicious. Don’t forget to make sure they go off as well.

-Keep your grass clean-cut

Okay, IF you have grass, keep it trimmed. There are lawn-mowing services that you can call, or you can ask a neighborhood kid to mow your lawn and keep it neat while you are out of town. An unruly, overgrown lawn can be a tip off to burglars that your home is currently uninhabited.

-Keep your windows covered

Don’t leave any option for anyone to be able to peep inside your home. Close all drapes, shades, and blinds. It doesn’t matter how well-kept your front yard is, or if your lights are going on and off all night. If anyone can just walk up to your window and look inside, they’ll figure out pretty quickly whether or not anyone is home. Before you leave for your vacation, make sure all your windows are covered.

Why take any chances while you’re gone? You should be able to relax and feel confident that you took all precautions to keep your home and your valuables safe. Hold your newspaper, hold your mail, keep your lawn clean, set some timers, cover your windows, and enjoy your vacation.

For more information call your insurance agent and sit down for a policy review..