The one year anniversary of the Marshall Fire in Louisville, Superior and Boulder County has just passed. The events of the last decade in Colorado, including fire, flood, wind and hail, have shown that most homeowners were under insured or lacked coverage in some areas at all. As homeowners, the responsible thing to do is learn from the past and make sure you know your coverage. Now is a great time to meet with your insurance agent to review your coverage.
Fire coverage is certainly top of mind after the recent Marshall Fire and the many forest fires in the last decade. First, check to see if you have enough coverage to rebuild in the event of a total loss. Many who lost their homes in the Marshall Fire thought they had enough coverage but were dismayed to learn that the cost to rebuild had skyrocketed and they were not entirely covered. You can also check to see if your policy has any kind of replacement cost guarantee. Second, check to see what kind of overage you have for temporary housing. As of the first week of January, 2023, one year after the Marshall Fire, only one family has been able to move into their rebuilt home. That leaves over 1,000 families still in the need of temporary housing. If you only had one year of coverage, or too low of a limit on the coverage, the expense could be huge. Most families will still need at least another year of coverage. Just like building costs after a major fire, rents for temporary housing have escalated. Make sure you account for rents that could be higher after a disaster, compared to current market rent. Third, check your level of personal property coverage, which covers all the stuff that was in your house, such as TVs, furniture, clothes, etc. Check with your agent to see if you need special coverage for unique items like expensive art, jewelry, sports equipment, etc. With that in mind, be sure to have a complete inventory of everything in your house, backed up with photos or video, all stored online or on an external hard drive that you do not keep at your house.
2023 is the 10th anniversary of the great flood of 2013. It’s a great time to check up on flood coverage you may want or need. In general, your homeowners policy does not cover floods and you need to get flood insurance through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. You also need to understand the limits of the government program. It may not be anywhere near what you might need. We learned in the 2013 flood that homeowners policies with sewer back up coverage or failed sump pump coverage were of great help to many homeowners. Check with your insurance agent to see what your policy includes or what you need to do to get the coverage you want in the event of another flood.
Wind and hail
Colorado is known for a lot of wind and hail. In the past decade, insurance companies have paid out huge amounts for hail damage. As a result, many of their policies are no longer as simple as paying your $1,000 deductible, with the rest covered for a total loss of your roof. Check with your insurance agent to have them calculate for you, based on your specific case, how much you would need to pay for a total loss of your roof. There might be a separate rider to your policy for hail and wind. Make sure you know what coverage you have.
Check with your insurance agent as to what you can do today to make your life easier in the event of a disaster. The first item might be to have a complete inventory of everything in your home written down, supplemented by photos and videos. Then store all that information securely online, such as in Dropbox or Cloud storage, or in an external hard drive that you do not keep at home. Protect your important documents or valuables with a fireproof safe, in case you don’t have time to make it back home. Consider what items you might keep in a safety deposit box. Those who live in fire-prone areas in the mountains usually keep an evacuation list of items to take from each room of the house. In the Marshall Fire, there weren’t too many people ever dreamed that we would have a fire burn across the city so fast. As a result, as we all know now, all of us should have an evacuation list. When the fire was burning past Costco in Superior, it is tough to think of what you might try to grab. The only thing a friend of mine thought to grab was his new skis that he hadn’t skied on yet.
Have your home evaluated
There are a few local services, like Wildfire Partners, that can come out and give you tips to help make your home more likely to survive a wildfire. Ask your insurance agent for a recommendation. If you or the fire department aren’t there to defend your home at the time, at least you know you have done everything you could to help save your home