Wildfires: How and What to Prep for Evacuation

Wildfires: How and What to Prep for Evacuation

When there’s a wildfire near your home, every second counts. Leaving quickly can help you steer clear of thick smoke, dangerous conditions, and even traffic jams as everyone heads to safety. The key to a quick exit lies in preparation—having a well-thought-out plan and essential items ready to go.

Pre-Evacuation Prep

Follow this general guide to know what to pack. Keep this as a checklist and refer to it as you assemble everything that you need.

Food and Water

  • Put together a 3-day supply of food for everyone in your family (unless you’re going to a relative’s or friend’s home who lives far away from the fire zone).
  • Bring 3 gallons of water per person.
  • Pack utensils and bowls, as you don’t know what might be available in emergency shelters.

Pet Supplies

  • Pack kibble, bowls and bring water for pets.
  • Bring a leash, collar, pet bed, crate or carrier, litter box, and litter as needed for your pet. Include treats and toys.
  • Pack pet medications.
  • Check that your pet’s microchip details are up to date.
  • Bring contact information for your pet’s vet and/or your pet’s vaccine records.

Medicine and Hygiene

  • Bring prescription medications and any medicines that your family may use on a regular basis: pain relievers, allergy medicines, contact lenses and solution, inhalers, etc.
  • Pack hygiene items such as shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, disposable razors, shaving cream, and towels.
  • For infants and toddlers, bring diapers and baby wipes.


  • Keep a first aid kit in your car should you need it.
  • Include N95 masks if available to limit your exposure to smoke.
  • Pack flashlights and batteries.

Clothing and Bedding

  • Pack for practicality and safety. Layer clothes for a range of temperatures. Don’t forget PJs, socks, and underwear, as well as a raincoat or all-weather jacket.
  • Comfortable, closed toed shoes work best in emergency situations.
  • Bring sleeping bags, pillows and blankets. Include a portable crib for infants and toddlers.


  • Bring chargers for smartphones, laptops, and devices. Include a solar charger if you have one.
  • Keep your devices well charged before you leave so you won’t have to search for a place to charge.
  • Pack a battery powered radio and spare batteries in case the power goes out.

Special items

  • There are some things you that you cannot replace. If you have the room, and they are easy to carry, plan to bring up to 3-5 of these special items.
  • Your planning time is a good time to do a home inventory of all your possessions. Take pictures and notes of big items. This will help if your home is partially or completely destroyed by a wildfire, and you need to file a claim.


  • Prepare a binder with key documents: mortgage or rental agreement, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, bank information, and investments.
  • Make sure your wallet or purse has your driver’s license, registration, health insurance cards, debit and credit cards.
  • Complete a cell phone list for neighbors, family. Designate a person outside the wildfire area who can be the main contact should family members get separated or have trouble with cell service.
  • Make copies of everything and keep them in a secure password protected digital space.

Prepare Your Home & Vehicle

 During a wildfire, embers can travel quickly and ignite your home and property. Here are some steps to take to prepare your home and vehicle.

  • Keep the vehicle that you’ll be leaving in fully gassed and well maintained. Park it in the direction it needs to go when you leave.
  • Make sure that you know how to manually open the garage door in case you lose power.
  • Make sure everyone in the household knows what to do to quickly evacuate.
  • Close all windows. Close all interior doors.
  • Take down flammable window treatments like curtains and store them out of the way.
  • Turn off the gas and pilot lights. Shut off propane tanks.
  • Turn off your air conditioning.
  • Leave lights on to allow firefighters to see your home in the dark.
  • Bring potentially flammable outside furnishings, toys and doormats inside or place them in your pool.
  • Attach garden hoses to outside taps for firefighters to use. Placed filled buckets of water around your home.
  • Listen to first responders and be ready to act when they recommend evacuation.

Review your wildfire evacuation plan often. Keep it updated as your family grows and needs change. Finally, protect your home with the right insurance for added peace of mind.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Summer Home Maintenance Tips

Summer Home Maintenance Tips

It’s easy to get caught up in summer fun. But it’s important not to overlook home maintenance. Taking care of your home during the summer months can prevent costly repairs down the road and help avoid unwelcome surprises. So, while you’re planning your beach trips and barbecues, don’t forget to give your home some much-needed TLC.

Interior Maintenance

  • Air Conditioning:
    • Look at your outdoor unit and clean away any debris. Replace the air filters. A clogged filter can cause your system to shut down. Have a professional check that the condensate drain is clear, the condenser coils are clean, and that the coolant lines are insulated. If you choose to do work on your air conditioner yourself, make sure to shut off the circuit breaker first.
  • Attic and Basement:
    • Check for signs of mold and mildew, leaks, holes in the roof, and pests. Mold often looks dark green or black on the surface of wood and other materials. Water damage can appear as peeling paint or discoloration. You also may notice a musty smell. Take action to correct any of these issues.
  • Ceiling Fans:
    • Check that your fans are working properly. If your fan allows you to change its direction, switch it so it runs counterclockwise in the summer months. This will help push cooler air down and allow you to keep your home at a slightly higher temperature while still feeling comfortable. This will save energy. Not sure if your fan changes direction? Look for a switch in the fan’s motor or on the box underneath the fan.
  • Chimney:
    • The perfect time to clean your chimney is when you are not using it. You will want to remove the highly flammable creosote buildup that is caused by burning wood. Hire a professional. If you prefer to DIY the cleanup, get your chimney inspected by a qualified chimney sweep. They are trained to recognize chimney deterioration and venting problems.
  • Dryer:
    • Lint and debris in your dryer vent and exhaust duct can be a fire hazard. If it’s taking longer than usual for your clothes to dry, that probably means your duct and vent needs to be cleaned. It’s a simple do-it-yourself process.
  • Garage:
    • Check your garage for hazardous materials, like paints, cleaning supplies, and lawn chemicals. When combined with summer heat, some of these items could become dangerous. Arrange for a safe place to store them where the temperature is more moderate.
  • Smoke Detectors:
  • Water Fixtures:
    • Check for leaks from your water faucets, plumbing and pipes. This is wasted water that can result in higher water bills. Pro tip: Install a leak detection device.
  • Windows and Doors:
    • Patch holes in window screens or replace mesh if there is a lot of damage. Clean windows inside and out, using a foam paintbrush for the tracks.
    • Check the seals on windows and doors. If you see daylight around the door or window frame, there’s an air leak. Seal it with caulk as needed.

Exterior Maintenance

  • Decks and Patios:
    • Look for loose boards, screws or nails on your deck. Clean and reseal wood decks to prevent rotting and protect it from UV rays. Check for loose tiles or broken cement on your patio and make those repairs. Clean patio furniture.
  • Fence:
    • Look for any problem areas in your fence that makes it less secure. Check the upright supporting posts for wear and tear. Fill in any holes under the fence. Repair chipped paint and clean dirty or stained spots.
  • Foundation:
    • Summer heat can cause the soil under your home to shrink. This can create gaps and cause your foundation to settle. Keep your eye out for exterior foundation cracks. You also may notice interior wall cracks or slanted floors. Acting sooner rather than later will help minimize damage.
  • Grill:
    • Your grill is your outdoor kitchen during the summertime. Make sure it is clean and in good working order. Check for rust, cracks and any parts that may need repair. For gas grills, examine the gas lines and connections for leaks. Use a stiff brush to clean away food particles and grease that could cause dangerous flare-ups. Cover your grill when not in use to keep pests and animals from nesting there.
  • Gutters:
    • If water doesn’t flow through your gutters, it can build up and damage your roof. Inspect your gutters and clean out the debris. Don’t forget to clean the drains and downspouts too.
  • Lawn Maintenance:
    • Keep your mowed grass on a taller setting so the blades will help shade the soil. This will help reduce water evaporation. Use a water calculator to give your lawn the ideal amount for your region.
  • Play Equipment:
    • Make sure swing sets and other play equipment are still sturdy and safe for use. Repair or replace any that could be dangerous.
  • Pool:
    • Vacuum your swimming pool to remove dirt and debris. Clean your pool’s filter. Keep an eye on the water chemistry. Pro tip: Toss in a tennis ball. The wool and nylon help to absorb oils like sunscreen that are in the water.
  • Roof:
    • Get up on your roof to see if there are any damaged or missing shingles, signs of leaks, and problems with flashing. Repair and replace as needed.
  • Siding:
    • Look for loose or damaged siding, and signs of rot. Repair or replace as needed. You can pressure wash siding to remove built-up debris.
  • Sprinkler Systems:
    • Test your sprinkler system and outdoor faucets and look for leaks. These are also places for wasted water that could increase your bill.
  • Trees:
    • Trim your tree branches so you don’t give squirrels a highway to your house. Branches should be at least 8 feet from your roof.
  • Walkways and Driveways:
    • Inspect and patch any cracks with flexible sealant. Pressure wash walkways and driveways to remove dirt and stains.

Finally, protect your home with the right insurance for peace of mind. Enjoy your summer!


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Preventing Car Theft – Where to Avoid Leaving or Parking Your Vehicle

Preventing Car Theft – Where to Avoid Leaving or Parking Your Vehicle

You’re ready to head home after a night out, but there’s one thing missing: your car. You could have sworn you parked it right here, but it’s no longer there. Vehicle theft can happen anytime, anywhere. When it comes to keeping your car safe, where you park can make all the difference.

Theft by the Numbers

A vehicle is stolen every 32 seconds, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. More than a million vehicles are reported stolen each year. California and Colorado have some of the highest number of auto thefts in the country, and of course, urban centers are hotspots for theft. However, thefts happen in the suburbs too, and cars can even be taken from your driveway. In honor of July, National Vehicle Theft Protection Month, we’re taking a look at what you need to know to keep your vehicle safe.

The Worst Places to Park Your Car

Thieves are looking for a chance to steal a car. Don’t give them the opportunity to steal yours. Before you park your car for a short time, or overnight, look around and assess the area for theft potential. Is the area well lit? Are other vehicles parked nearby? Are people around? Is there a security camera or guard? Are there signs of break-ins or damage? All of these can offer clues to an area’s safety.

Avoid empty streets.

Quiet streets and alleyways offer thieves a place to work without interruption. With no one around to witness the theft, they can get in and out quickly with your vehicle.

Avoid poorly lit areas.

Thieves prefer locations where they can work without being seen. Well-lit areas increase their chances of being noticed, while poorly lit and dark locations offer cover.

Avoid high-crime areas.

Do your research before parking in a new place. If the crime rate is high, it’s worth paying for a more secure parking option. High-crime areas aren’t just seedy sections of town. They could be residential neighborhoods that are targeted by thieves.

Avoid empty lots.

You may see lots of cars at office parking lots or at schools. However, when these buildings are not in session, the empty lots provide an easy place for thieves to work. Don’t be tempted to park in an empty lot and put your vehicle at risk.

Avoid remote locations.

Places that are less frequently traveled can be attractive for thieves. Chances are these locations are less often patrolled.

Avoid parking near large vehicles.

Parking your smaller car next to a larger vehicle automatically gives thieves cover. The truck or large car blocks the view so they can work without being easily seen.

How to Protect Your Vehicle

A skilled thief can steal a car in about a minute. However, there are things you can do to make your car seem harder to steal because it will take longer, or they are more likely to get caught.

When parking away from home:

  • Park in a garage with security cameras. Park in view of the cameras.
  • Be aware of tow truck thieves who come in and tow away your vehicle. When you park, turn your wheel as far to one side as possible. If you have front-wheel drive, park forwards in the spot. For rear wheel drive, back into the spot. This will make it harder to tow your car.
  • If you’re parking on the street, choose a busy road where there will be people and other cars the whole time your car will be there.
  • Lock your vehicle. The first thing that thieves do is try the doors.
  • Hide your valuables out of sight. Even loose change, phone chargers, and other items can tempt thieves to break in.
  • Don’t crack your window open on a hot day. An experienced thief can use that to get inside.
  • Protect your catalytic converter by etching your VIN onto it.
  • Don’t run your car with the keys in it – while you’re somewhere else.
  • Keep your registration and insurance in your wallet rather than your glove compartment. That will help prevent the risk of identity theft if your car is stolen.
  • Use an anti-theft system. New cars come with one, and you can also add one after market.

When parking at home:

  • If you can, park inside your home’s garage. Don’t leave the garage door open. Out of sight is out of mind, and thieves won’t try to steal a car they cannot see.
  • Add motion sensor lights to your home and driveway area.
  • Don’t leave your key fob in the car. Don’t put it near a door or window inside your home either. Thieves can use the signal to break into your vehicle. Consider keeping keys in a container that doesn’t allow digital signals to pass through.

If your car is stolen, be aware of resources for auto theft victims. Your vehicle is one of your greatest investments. Protect it with the right insurance.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Roof Solar Panel Alternatives

Roof Solar Panel Alternatives

You’d like to “go green” but solar panels won’t work for your roof. Maybe your house has too much shade or it’s not structurally suited for solar panels. Perhaps you have a homeowner’s association that doesn’t allow it. What do you do? You look at some eco-friendly alternatives.

Why solar power?

Solar power takes energy from the sun’s UV rays and converts it into power that we can use for electricity and heat. It is a clean energy, which means it does not create damage to the environment. It’s also renewable, which means you don’t use it up. Using solar power can help you save on your electric bill and reduce your reliance on the electric grid. It also may increase the value of your home.

When you install a solar system, you also may qualify for federal tax breaks or incentives. Many states, counties, municipalities, and utilities offer credits as well. You can find more information at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

While solar panels on roofs are very popular, not all roofs can accommodate them. Plus, when you have roof solar panels, it’s harder to keep up on roof repairs and maintenance. It can make roof replacement difficult. Fortunately, there are some alternatives to placing solar panels on your roof.

Ground Mounted Panels

If you have enough space on your property, you can install solar panels on the ground. This requires a framework that must be built. Ground systems have several advantages. They are easier to maintain and replace as you won’t have to go up on your roof to check the system. The system also can include rotating panels to maximize sun exposure. If you’re considering ground mounted panels, check with your local ordinances. Your town may require additional permits or environmental assessments.

Flexible Panels

As an alternative to traditional solar panels, you can find thin, flexible panels that can

be placed almost anywhere that you have sun. An advantage to using flexible panels is that they are less bulky and less visible than traditional solar panels. The downside is that they generate a lot less energy than solar panels.

Solar Roof Shingles

Solar panels also come in shingle form. Solar shingles can create a more traditional look for a roof. Like regular shingles, these protect your home from weather and other elements. You also don’t have to do the whole roof with solar shingles, depending upon your energy needs. You can integrate them with existing shingles, and they work well with concrete and asphalt roofs. However, they can be a pricey option.

Solar Siding

Solar siding is a vertical panel that you can put on the side of your house. This type of siding comes in different colors, and can even look like wood, brick or natural stone.

Solar Blinds

You can purchase solar blinds for your windows. While these won’t provide enough energy to get you off the grid, they can reduce your electrical usage. On the horizon—but not yet available—solar windows are in development, too.

Solar Sheds and Carports

You don’t have to limit solar to your roof or home. You can put solar panels on another building on your property. Solar panels on a garage could even power an electric vehicle. You can install a unit on your shed or carport that powers home appliances, electronics and lighting with batteries for storage and a generator backup.

Solar Patio Covers and Pergolas

Solar patio covers and pergolas are an increasingly popular option. They offer shade and outdoor seating areas while powering your home. They are not typically attached to your home and can be made in a range of materials with the solar panels mounted on top.

Mobile Solar

If you’re a renter, you cannot add solar panels to your roof or other structures. However, you can invest in mobile or portable solar panels. These panels don’t have to be attached to the house and won’t damage the property.  They are compact and lightweight. The wattage they produce can vary from just a few watts to 300+. Mobile solar is popular for camping and RV travel. The disadvantage is that they must be set up each time you use them.

Community Solar

You also can take advantage of community solar installations. This doesn’t require you to put anything on your property. You can subscribe to community solar in exchange for utility bill credits. This can save you an average of 5-20% on annual electricity costs.

If you do install solar, let your insurer know. That way, your home insurance policy can be updated for any future claims.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Vehicle Warranty vs. Vehicle Insurance

Vehicle Warranty vs. Vehicle Insurance

When it comes to protecting your vehicle, car insurance and vehicle warranties both play a big role. Knowing the difference between the two can help you make informed decisions about the coverage you need.

Vehicle Warranty

New car warranties

When you buy a new car, you get a factory warranty from the vehicle manufacturer at no additional cost to you. It is a guarantee that the car you bought is in good working order. A vehicle warranty covers replacements or repairs in case a component breaks or fails for a specified period. Typically, there is no deductible with a new car warranty. It covers both the new part and the labor.

A new car warranty generally comes in two parts:

  • Bumper to bumper coverage: This covers repairs to most parts including electronics and air conditioning (for typically 3 years or 36,000 miles).
  • Power train coverage: This covers the engine and transmission (for typically 5 years or 60,000 miles).

Sometimes a manufacturer’s warranty includes a limited corrosion warranty, emissions warranty, tire warranty, hybrid and electric car battery warranty, and roadside assistance. When your warranties expire, you often have the option to purchase an extended warranty.

Used car warranties

You can get warranties for used cars. A limited warranty comes with a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle. The cost is rolled into the higher price you will pay for a CPO vehicle. You also may purchase an extended warranty from your car’s manufacturer or a third party for most used cars. The cost of that extended warranty usually depends upon vehicle age, mileage, make and model, coverage level, your deductible, and the warranty provider.

What warranties cover and what they don’t

Warranties protect you against defects in your car’s parts from power windows and the infotainment system to your engine and transmission. They help cover repairs for those parts if they break or fail during the warranty period. Most car warranties are similar in their broad coverages but may differ in the details so check your policy for what is covered.

Warranties do not cover everything. They do not cover routine maintenance like oil changes or tire rotations. They do not cover wear-and-tear parts like brake pads or wiper blades. They do not cover damage from collisions, damage caused by the owner, severe weather, fire, or theft. For the latter, you need vehicle insurance.

Vehicle Insurance

Car insurance is required by law in most states for any car – new or used – that is on the road. This type of insurance pays for damage from a collision, or another covered adverse event such as fire or theft. Auto insurance does more than fix your car. It can help with medical bills for you, your passengers and the people you hit in a collision. It can help pay if the other driver is not insured. It even covers damages when another driver is at the wheel of your car and has an accident because insurance follows the car, not the driver.

What vehicle insurance covers and what it doesn’t

Car insurance policies are made up of different coverages. You choose the types you need from a range of options. Your premium is determined in part by the coverages that you choose.

  • Liability: If you are at fault in an accident, and others are involved, it’s good to have liability coverage. Liability coverage is required by law in most states. It covers you for bodily injury and property damage you cause to others. However, it does not cover any damage to your own vehicle; that’s covered by collision. It also does not cover injury to you and your family; it only covers the people in the other car.
  • Collision: This coverage is if your car is damaged in a collision with another car or an object, such as a fence. Your collision coverage will pay for repairs minus the deductible. Collision coverage is not required unless you’re leasing a car or paying off a loan on a vehicle. However, it may be good to have, especially in the event of an accident.
  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive coverage is for natural disasters, fires, vandalism, theft and animals that damage your vehicle. Think of it as “bad luck coverage.” Comprehensive coverage is not usually required unless you’re leasing a vehicle or paying a car loan. However, it’s valuable to protect your car.
  • Medical expenses: If you or others are hurt in an accident, you will want medical expenses covered. You will either be able to get medical payments coverage or personal injury protection (PIP). These coverages apply to everyone in your car whether or not you are at fault in the accident. This type of coverage is good to have, as your health insurance may not cover auto accidents and does not normally protect your passengers. PIP is only available in some states and may be mandatory if your state offers it.
  • Uninsured or underinsured motorist: You may encounter drivers who are not insured or who are underinsured. If so, you will need insurance to cover your car and the people in your car if hit by an at-fault driver in that situation. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) helps pay for repairs to your vehicle. Uninsured/Underinsured Bodily Injury coverage pays for medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering for you and your passengers. These are optional coverages in most states. In some states, you are not allowed to carry collision and UMPD at the same time. Also, sometimes UMPD has a policy maximum, or cap on the amount it will pay.

Talk to your insurance agent to see what is covered under your policy. That way you’ll be fully prepared should anything happen. Safe travels.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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