We Hear Smoke Detectors, Not Smoke

By Megan Cooney, Marketing Assistant

What do you think is the leading cause of house fires in the United States? Chimney fires? Electrical fires? Outdoor fire pits? According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries.

Between 2007 and 2011, U.S. Fire Departments across the globe responded to an estimated annual average of 156,600 cooking-related fires, according to a NFPA statistic. This number is a result of leaving the kitchen unattended while cooking. Nearly 90 percent of kitchen fires start when food is left to cook unwatched, according to a statistic done by the U.S. Fire Administration.

This year, the week of October 6 through 12 celebrated National Fire Prevention Week, a time devoted to education on fire safety and prevention. You can view fire safety tips by visiting NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week website: www.firepreventionweek.org.

But, what happens during the aftermath of a fire, and what measures can you take to ease the recovery process from a total loss claim? It all comes down to the insurance coverage you currently have.

Dealing with Property Loss

A homeowner’s policy does not necessarily cover the full cost of rebuilding a home. Included in the homeowner’s policy is Ordinance and Law coverage. This coverage allows for building codes or ordinance and law changes that may have occurred since the home was built. This is why homeowners, especially those with older buildings, should invest in Ordinance and Law coverage. Coverage starts at 10 percent of the dwelling cost and can be increased to 100 percent.

Debris removal is included in a homeowner’s policy, but does not always allow for the fullest coverage when dealing with a total loss. Most carriers allow for five percent debris removal. However, most times this coverage is not enough and the debris removal is subtracted from the total rebuilding costs. Account representatives at McGrath Insurance Group, Inc. really push to increase debris removal to 10 percent of the home’s rebuilding value. This gives our customers ample coverage to remove debris without cutting into rebuilding costs.

The cost to rebuild a house has dramatically increased from years prior due to the increase in costs for materials and labor. The following information is collected from the 2012-2013 Chubb Construction Cost Adjustment Factor (CCAF) research:

  • Common labor has risen 3.2% (Engineering News Record [ENR])
  • Construction materials have risen 1.8% (ENR)
  • The overall Construction Cost Index is up 2.9% (ENR)
  • Diesel fuel is up 5.2% (U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics [BLS])
  • Insulation materials are up 7.1% (BLS)
  • Lumber and plywood are up 6.9% (BLS)

Depending on the severity of the loss and the circumstances leading up to it, an insurance carrier can drop your policy. In other words, if you own a wood-burning stove and neglect to clean it, which then causes a fire to break out, you may be found negligent. Owning a wood-burning stove can lead to higher rates because of the increased risk factor of a fire breaking out. The same goes for renovations and reconstruction. If you neglect to inform your agent and/or carrier that there has been a section added to your home and a fire destroys it, the rebuilding costs of that section may not be covered, or you could be penalized with a higher deductible.

Preparing for the Worst

Before disaster strikes, you should document all the personal property you have and the condition it is in. Take photographs or videos of your living area and personal belongings, and then store the documentation in either a safety deposit box or fire-safe box. Taking precautionary steps like this ensures you will be better protected if and when something like this occurs.

“Change your clock, change your batteries,” is the motto of Celeste Fifield, one of our account representatives at McGrath Insurance Group. Both landlords and homeowners need to make sure house smoke detectors are functioning properly. By having a smoke detector in each room and hallway, increases the likelihood of you and your family escaping a fire unharmed.

The most important thing to keep in mind before a dangerous situation is how accessible your insurance carrier is. In the event that a claim needs to be made, do you know who to contact and when you can contact them? The faster you can make a claim for a loss, the faster you and your family will be on the way to recovery.

*This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice.