Keep Good Records
"Homeowners who need extra money while they're evacuated from their homes can get immediate living expenses under their homeowners insurance policies," said Carole Walker, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
A mandatory evacuation triggers the additional living expenses, which are covered under most standard homeowners policies. Evacuated residents should also hang on to their receipts because they can either file a claim later or if there is any damage to their home many of those out-of-pocket expense will also be reimbursed.
The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association and All-State offered some advice for homeowners impacted by forest fires:
- Before a fire starts, make sure anything of huge monetary value is properly insured. And make sure there's an escape plan for you and your family, and that every member of the family knows what the plan is.
- Residents evacuated from their homes should contact their agents or companies immediately and let them know where they can be reached. Contact your agent or company if you need additional living expenses while you are out of your home.
- Keep receipts. Out-of-pocket expenses during a mandatory evacuation are reimbursable under most standard homeowner policies.
- Take home inventories and financial documents with you when you are being evacuated. Always put safety first and leave your home immediately when asked by authorities. However, if there is sufficient time to gather items, the first thing you need to take is financial documents and your home inventory.
- Financial and important documents that should be kept in a safe spot during the year, and grabbed during an evacuation include banking information, insurance, stock certificates, bonds, recent tax returns, bills, checkbook, birth and marriage certificates and copies of everything in your wallet -- current driver's license, insurance cards, credit and bank cards (both front and back), social security card and any other photo IDs.
- Hopefully, you have prepared a written or video home inventory in advance and it is kept off premises. You can also take pictures of every room in your house before you are evacuated.
- Also remember, pack up medications in their original containers, a change of clothing, and identification with your current address. Otherwise, without proper identification, you may not be allowed back into your neighborhood.
- Think carefully in advance about what items are easily replaceable by insurance and what items are not, like family heirlooms, keepsakes, and pictures.
- Tell your neighbors where you will be going and exchange contact information.
When You Return
- Be prepared to give your agent or insurance representative a description of any damage. Your agent will report the loss immediately to your insurance company or a qualified adjuster. Smoke and damage from firefighting efforts (i.e. slurry damage) is covered up to your policy limits.
- Take photos of the damaged areas. These will help with your claims process and will assist the adjuster in the investigation.
- Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. Be sure to make two copies -- one for yourself and one for the adjuster. Your list should be as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost.
- Make whatever temporary repairs you can. Cover broken windows, damaged roofs and walls to prevent further destruction. Save receipts for supplies and materials you purchase. Your company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses in making temporary repairs.
- Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home from a reliable contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices.