Insurance agents see risk in wildfire-prone Summit properties
When it comes to wildfire, insurance companies consider homes in Summit County to be risky business.
“Insurance companies have to manage risk,” said Kelly Campbell, with the Denver-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. “That’s what they help their customers with — managing risk. Companies are going to look at an area, and if the area is too risky then they may choose not to do as much business in that area.”
Campbell joined Jim Galt, with the State Farm Agency, and Leslie Wiese, an American Family Insurance agent, at a community meeting in Frisco on Wednesday. The gathering, organized by the Forest Health Task Force, was designed to help homeowners protect their properties in the event of devastating wildfire.
Colorado, from a big picture standpoint, is one of the most difficult states in which to do homeowners insurance, Campbell said.
“Last year alone, insurance companies paid out $1.20, on average, for every dollar they brought in,” she said. “If you compare that to the national average, insurance companies paid out about 70 cents on every dollar they brought in.”
Current trends point to a shift in the market. This could include homeowners paying more money and having fewer options for insurance.
“Companies, despite all of these other factors, know Colorado is a good place to do business, so I encourage people to shop around,” Campbell said.
Homeowners’ best bet to protect themselves and their homes is to find an insurance agency who’s right for them.
“Make sure your personal insurance agency is one that you trust, and that you can have a conversation with,” said Wiese, with American Family Insurance. “The relationship with a company and with an agent is really important to make sure you have the appropriate coverage.”
Insurance agents advised community members at the Wednesday meeting to take the time to learn about the different types of coverage that can be provided, and to learn about their personal responsibilities should their homes be lost in a fire.
Although agents are happy to provide information and answer questions, in the end it’s down to each individual to decide for himself or herself which is the best insurance policy, Galt said.
“It really isn’t (the agent’s) responsibility to tell you what to carry,” said Galt. “They can provide information to you, give you different options and tell you what it’s going to cost, but ultimately you have to stick your nose out there and decide what you are going to insure the house for based on all of the information put together. It’s important to do this on a regular basis.”
Homeowners need to give their insurance company a good idea about the items destroyed in a fire before they can be reimbursed for them.
“Everyone you talk to who has lost their home said the most difficult part of the claims process is remembering all of the things they lost,” Wiese said.
Because of this, it’s important to take to document property before it’s gone. Documentation could include pictures, video and receipts. Many insurance companies also have inventory sheets customers can fill out to give agents an idea about the quantity and quality of materials in their home.
“Anything you can do will go a long way if you are in the unfortunate situation of losing your home,” she said. “It’s something that can be done very simply and easily.”
The public meeting on Wednesday was part of a homeowners series focused on wildfire topics.
The next meeting of the Forest Health Task Force is “After the Fire — Implications of a Radically Changed Environment.” It will be held on Wednesday, July 17, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Summit County Community Center at Third and Granite in Frisco.
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