It was the night of November 18, 2011 when one of the most stunning pictures of the Reno skyline was captured. Above the multicolored mix of our shiny bright casinos, lay a brilliant red and orange sky. Crimson flames towered above Reno, striking against a pitch black sky. It seemed like the whole town was mere minutes from being completely engulfed. It was a time in which many Northern Nevada residents were face first with a frightening reality mostly ignored; while the Truckee Meadows is one of the most beautiful places to live, we still have to contend with the dangers of wildfires. With all the snowfall we see in Northern Nevada, we may sometimes forget that we live in a high desert climate (emphasis on the desert). The mixture of highly flammable dry plants and tree, as well as little to no humidity, is a perfect recipe for prime fire conditions.
Luckily, there are many precautions we can take to protect our families as well as our homes. While a comprehensive homeowner’s insurance policy can protect your assets after a fire, there are small steps you can take to prevent the unthinkable from happening.
Fire Safe Space
To protect our home, it is wise to create a fire safe perimeter, otherwise known as a defensible space. This consists of two “fuel management zones”.
- The first zone covers the immediate space around your property. In this zone, you will want to focus on thinning trees and removing other vegetation close to the home to prevent a direct path for the fire. Thin trees that are close to your home and be sure to cut branches to touch the roof, windows, or eaves. Remember, the first part of the house to catch fire is almost always the roof. Replace wood shingles for one made of more fire proof materials. Clean roof and gutters of leaves and other flammable debris. Move any firewood or other materials to at least 30 feet from structures.
- The second zone extends from 30ft to 100ft around your home. Clear any dead plants or bushes and remove anything that might catch fire. The goal of this zone is to slow down any flames that may threaten your home by removing any possible fuel.
Plan An Escape
If your family awoke this morning at 3am and discovered a fire had started, would everyone know what to do? A home fire escape plan is essential to the survival of your family. Take a few minutes with everyone in your household to develop a plan.
- Two is better than one: Draw a floor plan of your house and indicate two exits out of every room, if possible, perhaps the door and a window. If the primary exit is blocked by fire, a secondary will definitely come in handy. Make sure windows aren’t stuck and that window screens can be removed. Remember, check to see if the door handle is hot before you exit. Hot handles mean fire!
- Get Out! If fire alarms go off, everyone must immediately get out. Don’t waste time trying save valuables or property. Consider placing important documents, photos, or valuables in a fire proof safe. Also don’t waste time inside calling 911, wait until you are safely outside and can ask a neighbor. Don’t enter the home to rescue pets. Alert emergency personnel as soon as they arrive.
- Have a meeting place outside that everyone will meet at. A tree or a streetlight will do.
- Decide in advance who will assist very young children, older adults, or people with disabilities in your household.
- Make sure functioning smoke alarms are installed on all floors of your home and in all hallways.
Know Your Coverage
It’s important to review your homeowner’s policy so that you are familiar with your coverage and are aware of what is covered. Update your insurance coverage if you make additions or improvements and get estimates for rebuilding costs. To protect against economic loss, consider purchasing homeowner’s insurance for the replacement cost of your home, instead of the cash value. Remember, the cost to rebuild your home is often more expensive than the price you paid for it. Also look into coverage that provide living costs, such as hotel stays and groceries, should you be displaced from your home.(Insider tip: contact one of our agents to go over your homeowner’s insurance coverage.)
While you can’t predict the future, you can be prepared for what might happen!
Photo courtesy of the Reno Gazette-Journal. For more information regarding fire safety, visit the US Fire Administration’s website.