Responding to Disaster: Fire and Smoke

You don’t have to live near a forest to have your house at risk for damage from flames. Whether the cause is a wildfire or a stove left on, a house fire can start in any number of ways. Once it starts, a small flame can turn into a major blaze in less than 30 seconds, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s ready.gov website.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to face a house fire. To be sure you’re prepared, the website urges the creation — and practice — of a fire-escape plan, and the installation of smoke alarms.

Wildfires are adding to the risk of disaster. The Insurance Information Institute shows statistics for acres burned in the U.S. starting with more than 5 million acres burned in 1980. Prior to 1999 the most damaging year was 1996 when 6 million acres were reported as burned. But from 2000 through 2018 there were 11 years more damaging than 1996, including 2015 and 2017 when the acres burned reached or exceeded 10 million each year.

Fire can break out almost anywhere. In Texas, 1,660 homes were torched during the 34,000-acre fire that burned through Bastrop County in 2011.

Facing such risks, you can protect yourself and your property with the coverage you need for any life event that may come your way with RBFCU Insurance Agency. A homeowner’s policy generally covers your home and your personal property from damage caused by fire or smoke.

You can also complete tasks around the house to limit the repair and reduce the risk of damage to your home, car or other property from a spreading fire. Here are some tips from the Sierra Club and also the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension:

  • Make buildings fire resistant/start with the roof: Go with asphalt shingles or a metal roof, and clean your gutters of leaves or other flammable material.
  • Cover or fortify vents, windows or other openings: Embers can penetrate these areas, so use hardware cloth in obvious openings. With windows, try to use double-paned or tempered glass.
  • Build defensible spaces around your home: Reduce fuel for a fire by restricting flammable materials (especially propane and other fuel tanks) or vegetation inside 30 feet of your dwelling. Also, fire breaks can be developed with foot paths or stone walls.
  • Work together with your neighbors: Think about community-organized fire preparation, because your home is only as fire-proof as your neighborhood’s weakest links if you live in a densely populated area.

The Red Cross provides information on recovering after a fire. The National Fire Protection Association also provides detailed information on the importance of a home fire-escape plan and smoke-alarm safety tips.

When you contact your insurance agency, ask if they can direct you to a contractor who can arrive at the property and address damage that can be temporarily secured to prevent further problems. Later, plans can be made for an entire course of repair and remediation.

The Texas Department of Insurance offers recommendations on issues that should be considered. When dealing with a contractor, make sure you:

  • Get written estimates on company letterhead showing contact information. Get copies of all written, signed agreements and warranty terms.
  • Get at least three bids to compare.
  • Check out references, and beware of a contractor who only offers out-of-town referrals or solicits door-to-door. Conduct online searches. Check for complaints with the local Better Business Bureau.
  • Don’t make final payment until the job is finished.
  • Be suspect of companies that offer to waive the deductible. Any company that submits false information to your insurance company about the cost of repairs is committing insurance fraud.

As part of our service to you, RBFCU Insurance Agency can help to make sure you have the home and auto insurance you need. Contact 1-888-564-2999 or insurance@rbfcu.org to request your free, no-obligation quote.

This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered financial or insurance advice. Please consult a financial professional or insurance agent before taking any action and to determine how the information provided in this article may apply to your situation.

RBFCU Insurance Agency LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of RBFCU Services LLC. RBFCU Services LLC is affiliated with Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union (RBFCU). Insurance products are not deposits; are not obligations of the credit union; not NCUA insured; and not guaranteed by RBFCU Insurance Agency LLC, RBFCU Services LLC or RBFCU.