Steps home owners should follow when fire strikes

BCAA Insurance offers advice to property owners to lower stress and losses if fire threatens their homes

BURNABY, BC, July 14 /CNW/ - Images of this week's Peachland wildfire and Armstrong sawmill fire offer vivid reminders of the devastation fire can have on homes, personal property and residents' peace of mind. Both Okanagan fires quickly ballooned after erupting and forced evacuations of over sixty people from their homes in the Peachland area and nearly 250 people near Armstrong. Firefighters took two days to contain the Armstrong blaze and one day to get the Seclusion Bay Resort fire to a manageable level.

The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) recognizes major fires and evacuations are stressful and worrisome for nearby residents. To help homeowners and tenants get organized and protect their homes, vehicles and other belongings in the event of a large fire, BCAA offers the following tips and advice. BCAA also advises residents and vacation property owners in areas at high risk for wildfires to review their insurance policies to ensure they are accurate, current, and will provide adequate coverage in the event of a fire loss.

For those on evacuation:

    
    -   Contact your insurance agent to learn precisely what your policy
        covers. Many people simply renew their insurance year after year
        without reviewing their coverage.

    -   Keep all receipts for living expenses incurred due to evacuation
        (e.g. accommodation, meals, toiletries, etc.). Most home insurance
        policies will cover a certain amount of living expenses for those
        forced to evacuate their homes. As with any fire-related claim, the
        base policy deductible, which is usually $500, applies to additional
        living expenses.

    -   To make a claim or to obtain emergency funds, contact your insurance
        company right away. Most companies have a 24-hour emergency claims
        line.
    

For those on evacuation alert:

    
    -   Move valuables and irreplaceable items to a safe location.

    -   Locate vital documents (e.g. passports, birth certificates, insurance
        policies, etc.) and other critical items such as prescription
        medication. Keep them handy and ready to move if evacuated.

    -   Take photos or video recordings of items in the home that are not
        able to be moved (e.g. furniture, antiques, electronics). Do the same
        with any landscaping such as trees, shrubs and plants.

    -   Move additional vehicles (such as RVs, boats, antique cars) to a safe
        location. Basic liability insurance may be obtained to move vehicles,
        but coverage for physical damage may not be currently available in
        fire-affected areas. Anyone with questions should contact their
        insurance agent.
    

For those not impacted by the fires, but concerned about their home insurance:

    
    -   Contact your insurance agent to review coverages. Ensure any recent
        renovations and/or additions (e.g. decks, hardwood flooring) are
        reflected in the coverage.

    -   Represent the true value of your property and its contents. As
        tempting as it may be to under-represent values to avoid paying a
        higher premium, you could be putting yourself at risk. Insurance
        agents rely on homeowners to provide correct square footages and
        complete details for contents, finishing and landscaping.

    -   Ensure you have Guaranteed Building Replacement Cost coverage. This
        type of coverage ensures your home will be rebuilt, even if the cost
        exceeds your policy limit. It's important to note, however, that you
        must meet certain conditions to be eligible for this coverage - and,
        coverage may not extend to landscaping and out-buildings. To be sure
        you are covered for 100% replacement cost; consult with your
        insurance agent. It may also be wise to consult with a qualified
        builder to confirm rebuilding costs at today's rates.

    -   Keep a record of your belongings. Take photos or a video recording of
        the belongings in your home. When at all possible, keep receipts as
        well. Store copies in a safe, alternate location, such as your office
        or safe deposit box. Trying to remember and list all the items in
        your home after a claim can be very onerous without a record.

    -   Know your policy. Don't wait until the last minute to figure out if
        you've remembered to include everything in your policy.

    -   Keep your home insurance policy current. Update it regularly,
        especially if you've done renovations or made additions to your home
        within the last year.
    

About BCAA

BCAA is the largest organization of its kind in B.C., with over 100 years experience and gross annual sales of nearly $400 million from its membership, insurance and travel businesses. A BCAA Membership can be found in the wallets of over 790,000 British Columbians and in one-in-four B.C. households. For the past two years, BCAA has received the highest score in Canada for home insurance customer satisfaction in a J.D. Power and Associates study. And, for the past four years, BCAA has been named one the 50 Best Employers in Canada by international HR consultants Hewitt Associates and the Globe & Mail's Report on Business magazine. To learn more about BCAA's products, services and member advocacy, visit www.bcaa.com. For more information on the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation visit www.tsf-bcaa.com.

SOURCE British Columbia Automobile Association

For further information: For further information: Editor's notes: For further information, or to request an interview, please contact: Niela Melanio, BCAA Public Affairs Advisor, Office: 604-268-5342 (M-F between 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), Cell: 778-228-8859 (any time), Email: niela.melanio@bcaa.com


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