Here’s an unsettling statistic – about half of us still haven’t completed a home inventory. Of those who have done one, 40 percent haven’t updated it in many years. It’s a resolution that we urge you to make.
Why? You’ve worked hard make your house a home. Now it’s time to create a record of everything that you own. Trying to tally what needs to be replaced is not something you want to do in the event of a claim.
Home inventory is so important. It provides a list of your things in case there is a fire, destructive storm or someone breaks in and steals your valuable belongings. Without an inventory, many people have a difficult time pinpointing or recalling everything that might have been destroyed or taken. That could delay your claim or keep you from getting full compensation.
Whether you choose to write everything down or use a video camera (like your phone), now is a great time to get started. Just go room by room and document:
- Personal care items
- Kitchen items and appliances
- Beds and linens
- Sports equipment
- Yard and garden tools
Don’t forget to take pictures of the exterior of your home from all sides (including the landscaping and any decks or porches), and all the stuff in the garage, attic or basement (holiday ornaments, lawn and yard equipment, tools).
Completing your inventory will give you some peace of mind if the worst should happen. We’ve got a hand home inventory guide that you can download here.
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with the smoke detector; we know that we are safer if there should be a fire, but hate it when something burns in the kitchen or the battery runs low. The piercing shriek sends the dogs howling and gets the ears ringing. If it happened at your home or apartment, you were probably tempted to take the batteries out of the darned thing until you could clear the smoke and the screeching noise was gone. Don’t!
Removing smoke detectors batteries can turn deadly. All too often, fire crews respond to fires where there were no batteries in the smoke detector and someone was hurt.
Having a working smoke detector can reduce your risk of dying in a home fire by half. That’s why the National Fire Protection Association asks us all to be alert this fall. Late fall and winter are when the number of home fires spikes.
While we depend on firefighters to put out fires and save lives, we all need to do more to protect our families until they can get there.
Here’s what you can do the make your family and home safer:
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in all bedrooms
- Test smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries once a year (normally the Sunday when Daylight Saving ends)
- Replace smoke detectors every ten years
- Practice fire drills and evacuations
Smoke alarms can cost as little as $15 for those that use batteries, hardwired models will cost more. Some fire departments offer low-cost or free smoke detectors for families with financial hardships.
There should be one placed in every bedroom, outside sleeping areas and on every floor of a home.
Here are some important things to remember about home fires:
- Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, followed by heating equipment
- Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths
- Only one-third of Americans have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan
These safety tips can prevent a fire at your home:
- Never leave food unattended on the stove or in the oven
- Avoid using candles and if you do make sure they are away from flammable materials and extinguished when you leave the room
- Don’t smoke in bed
- Have your furnace inspected every year by a heating professional
- Keep portable heaters three feet away from flammable materials
- Don’t use frayed cords and don’t overload outlets
In the US, home break-ins occur about every 18 seconds. That’s pretty alarming. Not only can a thief steal your belongings, they can rob your peace of mind leaving you and your family feeling violated, scared and even angry.
By taking the time to educate yourself and following some simple precautions, you’ll be better prepared to protect your family and home from a break-in ever occurring.
Know it: A security system may prevent a burglar from even attempting to break in.
Do it: Have a security system installed and monitored – and display the yard signs and window stickers you are provided.
Know it: Thieves sometimes rely on the cover of night, but most burglaries happen between 10am and 3pm while many people are at work or school.
Do it: Keep bushes and shrubs trimmed back. Consider getting motion activated security. Leave on a TV or radio. A barking dog can serve as a great deterrent to thieves – while you get to enjoy a wagging tail and a wet nose when you arrive home.
Know it: Burglars are often familiar with your neighborhood or daily schedule.
Do it: Varying your routine will make it harder for the bad guys to tell when you’re not home.
Know it: Signs that you’re on vacation or out of town for an extended period can make your home an easy target for burglary.
Do it: Put your mail, newspaper and deliveries on hold. Have a trusted friend or neighbor watch your home. Put indoor lights on timers. Some police departments offer an out of town home watch. If your local authorities provide this service, be sure to sign up several days prior to going out of town. Be vigilant about what you and your family post on social media.
Know it: 34% of burglars enter through the front door. Another 30% take advantage of unlocked windows or other unlocked doors.
Do it: LOCK YOUR DOORS AND WINDOWS! Keep your garage doors closed, even when home.
Know it: The top three things a burglar is looking for are cash, prescription drugs and jewelry but don’t doubt that these criminal opportunists will take anything they can get their hands on. Unfortunately, this often includes your identity.
Do it: Don’t leave valuables, cash or items that can be used for ID theft in plain sight or hidden in obvious places. Keep an up-to-date home inventory with a record of serial numbers from electronics to aid in filing police reports and insurance claims. Be sure to have an identity theft protection and recovery service if burglars get access to your personal or banking information.
We can’t stop all criminals, but California Casualty is here to protect you with quality auto and home / renters insurance with exclusive benefits not available to the general public. Every policy also comes with free ID theft protection.
Sources for this article:
Wildfires in California have burned faster and more intense than ever. The past two years have seen the largest and most destructive conflagrations in the state’s history.
Too many people have come back to find homes in ashes and twisted, melted remnants of prized personal possessions.
Here are five key actions to be better prepared if the next wildfire threatens your community or neighborhood:
- Create a home inventory. Sixty percent of homeowners and renters have still not documented the things they own, which can cause post-fire/disaster headaches
- Review and understand your insurance policy and what it pays and does not pay for
- Get extra protection for collectables and high-dollar possessions with a scheduled personal property endorsement (often called a floater)
- Get renters insurance if you are renting to protect your furniture and possessions
- Prepare an emergency kit with important documents (copies of banking information, insurance policies, home mortgage and deeds, etc.)
If the worst should happen:
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible
- Secure the property from further damage
- Contact creditors, banks and appropriate agencies about credit cards, tax returns, Social Security cards or other papers that may have been scattered in the disaster
- Check your credit report to make sure nobody is using your personal information
- Be very wary of fly-by-night work crews and contractor fraud
Be sure to download and print your copy of these Wildfire Preparation Tips here.
Be sure to print and download your copy of the Household Inventory Checklist from here.
Don’t forget to protect everything inside your home that you have worked so hard to get. Setting up your own inventory list takes little time to complete and will save you a headache later if a disaster should strike. Are you aware of what your insurance may not cover?
These are the most common things not covered by most home insurance policies:
- Earthquake and land movement. As landslides and earthquakes have become more common in many states, many people are surprised to learn that earthquake or land movement damage is not covered by standard homeowners insurance. You need to purchase separate earthquake and landslide insurance protection.
- Floods. Multiple surveys have found a majority of homeowners and renters thought their property insurance protected them from flooding; it doesn’t. If a river overflows its banks or storm surge sends tides into your home, you’ll need to purchase separate flood insurance, provided primarily by the federal government. Keep in mind there is a 30 day waiting period before any flood policy can go into effect.
- Sewer backups. The sludge can do serious damage and make your home unsafe until it’s properly cleaned up, but it’s not covered under most homeowner insurance policies. Your insurance company can provide a special endorsement to cover sewer or sump pump backups. What you may not know is that homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of sewer and water lines through their property up to the sewer main, and many cities and utility departments will deny responsibility for most sewer incidents.
- Maintenance issues. Insurance companies can dispute payment of damage or injuries if you fail to repair a broken step or other obvious hazards, or for mechanical breakdown of an appliance. In most cases, you will also need a special rider to cover food that might be lost due to a power outage or failure of a freezer or refrigerator.
- Expensive jewelry, fine art, firearms, musical instruments, furs and collectables. Many people learn after a fire or tornado that their precious items only had minimal coverage. You’ll need special scheduled personal property coverage, often called a “floater,” to make sure they are protected for their full value.
Did you know that swimming pools, trampolines, and certain breeds of dogs may not be protected by your policy?
A survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found 60 percent of homeowners have not documented all the things they own. What does that mean to you? Completing a home inventory can speed up your claim and help you determine how much coverage you need.
Items to include are:
- Personal care items
- Kitchen items
- Beds and linens
- Holiday ornaments
- Lawn and yard equipment and tools
*Download our easy Home Maintenance Checklist, and stay prepared for a disaster before it’s too late.