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Don’t get burned

Amanda Roberson

SUMMIT COUNTY – With images of this summer’s fire devastation fresh on the brain, now is a good time for homeowners to give their insurance policies an annual checkup and make sure they won’t get burned in the event of a fire.

Basic policies will cover fire damage “as long as you don’t start the fire yourself,” said Rob Nelson, an insurance agent at State Farm in Frisco. “But the important thing is how much coverage you have.”

Homeowners should make sure their policies cover the cost of rebuilding their home and the contents of the home; renters need to insure the contents only.

An annual insurance reassessment is important – homeowners may have added value to their homes since they originally purchased their insurance plans, making the coverage no longer adequate. Renovations or expensive purchases such as stereo or computer equipment may mean homeowners need additional coverage.

State Farm Insurance Co. recommends homeowners notify their insurance agents anytime they increase the value of their home by $5,000.

“If they don’t, they can miss out on extra coverage,” Nelson said.

Nelson recommended taking an inventory of the home’s contents to determine the worth. Keeping an updated inventory of the home’s contents will help ensure homeowners get the full amount they are due.

“They’ll be very thankful they did it in case of a loss,” Nelson said.

Walking through the entire house, homeowners should either make a video or take snapshots of each room and closet. They should record serial numbers of small appliances and electronic equipment and photograph other valuable possessions, such as jewelry.

The completed video tape or photos should be stored outside the home, in a safety deposit box or friend’s home. Receipts, too, can be useful in case of a fire, Nelson said, and also should be stored outside the home.

An insurance policy should cover the cost of completely rebuilding a home. Merely insuring the market value of the home is not enough, said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

The cost of rebuilding could be more or less than the market value, depending on the materials used and the value of the lot. For example, the cost of rebuilding a house on an expensive lot would be less than the value of the lot, so the policy would be less than the home’s market value. Insurance agents and builders associations can assess the cost of rebuilding a home to help homeowners choose an appropriate policy.

Maintaining property to prevent fires from spreading is another way homeowners can make sure they get a comprehensive plan, said Walker.

Insurance companies want to see 30 feet of “defensible space” around the house, a perimeter free of trees and debris. Using fire-resistant building materials and replacing flammable plants with fire-resistant plants also will show insurance companies the homeowners are doing everything they can to prevent fire.

Homeowners shouldn’t expect federal aid to pick up any costs their insurance doesn’t cover, said Walker. Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helped uninsured and underinsured homeowners affected by this summer’s fires, this is not common practice. Homeowners can receive assistance from FEMA only if the president declares a major disaster.

On the Net

– For information about homeowners insurance and fire

danger, check out http://www.rmiia.org

– For tips on preventing fire damage, check out the National Fire Protection Association’s Web site, http://www.nfpa.org


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