California — Lara Wildfire areas & Flooding & Insurance: With powerful winter storms increasing the threat of mudslides, especially for people in wildfire burn areas who are even more vulnerable, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued a formal Notice to insurance companies reminding them of their legal duty to cover damage from any future mudslide or similar disaster that is caused by recent wildfires that weakened hillsides.
Many people may not be aware that homeowners’ and commercial insurance policies typically exclude flood, mudslide, debris flow, and other similar disasters — unless they are directly or indirectly caused by a recent wildfire or another peril covered by the applicable insurance policy. The Department of Insurance has posted a fact sheet for consumers to answer questions about what their policies cover.
“With continued winter storms threatening areas already damaged by wildfires, it’s critical to know how you are protected especially if you are living in a more vulnerable area,” said Commissioner Lara, who created the California Climate Insurance Working Group focused on long-term solutions to combat climate change, including reducing risks to vulnerable communities as a result of strong storms, atmospheric rivers, and flooding. “I am alerting insurance companies to follow California law requiring they cover any mudslide, debris flow, or other damage that is caused by our recent wildfires so that people can recover quickly.”
The Montecito mudslide in Santa Barbara County in January 2018 that followed the destructive Thomas Fire claimed 23 lives and caused more than $421 million in damage, according to Department of Insurance data. Following that disaster, then-Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. enacted a new law to help prevent confusion about coverage following mudslides.
Due to the scale of previous wildfires across the state and the current and potential flooding, the Department of Insurance preemptively issued today’s Notice to all property and casualty insurance companies to ensure consumers are protected.
Commissioner Lara also urged consumers to take the following steps to prepare for the winter storm season:
Use their smart phone to perform a home inventory to create a record of their belongings and store scans of important documents that they can easily access.
Locate their insurance papers and put in a safe place or upload to an online location.
For renters, consider purchasing renters’ insurance to protect their personal belongings, which typically are not covered by their landlord’s homeowners’ policy.
Consider comprehensive auto insurance, which would protect their vehicle in the event of flood damage.
Visit the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) “winter wise” web page to read more tips to prepare for winter weather.
Consider flood insurance for future disasters in addition to their homeowners’ insurance policy. The National Flood Insurance Program currently provides the majority of flood coverage written in the state, but private flood insurance is also available. Flood insurance takes effect 30 days after it is purchased, except in the case of a home purchase where flood insurance is required by the lender.
The Department of Insurance can help consumers with insurance coverage or claim questions. Contact us at our consumer hotline at 800-927-4357 or through online chat or email at insurance.ca.gov.
Idaho — Fire Safety for Hyperbaric Chambers: The Idaho State Fire Marshal has received inquiries regarding fire safety standards regarding the use of hyperbaric chambers for oxygen therapy purposes. In order to protect the public, this bulletin is intended to inform fire safety officials.
Hyperbaric chambers are regulated by the 2018 edition of the International Fire Code (IFC) as adopted by the state of Idaho. Section 609.1 of the IFC requires hyperbaric facilities to be inspected, tested, and maintained in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 99, which defines a “hyperbaric facility” as a building, structure, or space used to house hyperbaric chambers and auxiliary service equipment for medical applications and procedure at pressure above normal atmospheric pressure. Chapter 14 of the NFPA Standard 99, entitled Hyperbaric Facilities incorporates the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Safety Standard for Pressure Vessels for Human Occupancy, 2016 (ASME PVHO-1).
The State Fire Marshal, pursuant to Idaho Code, Title 41, Chapter 2, Section 41-254(3) interprets the IFC to request that hyperbaric chambers comply with ASME PVHO-1. Such hyperbaric facilities need to satisfy each of the requirements in IFC section 609 and NFPA 99 including, but not limited to, those related to fire suppression, fire alarms, and emergency planning. This bulletin does not apply to the use of these devises in private one and two-family dwelling units, however it is recommended that these products meet the ASME PVHO-1 listing.
Questions concerning this bulletin can be referred to:
Knute C. Sandahl, State Fire Marshal
700 W. State Street, 3rd Floor
Boise, Idaho 83720
Oregon — Increased rain brings possible flooding to parts of Oregon: Winter in Oregon brings rain – and lots of it. This year is no different and the Division of Financial Regulation (DFR) reminds people to be prepared. The forecast for this weekend and into next week is for continued rain and with flooding already happening in the Northwest, there are ways you can be ready.
Most Oregonians with flood coverage have it through the National Flood Insurance Program. You can also purchase private flood insurance through your insurance company. Typical homeowners or renters policies do not cover flood damage. If your insurance company does not offer flood insurance, you can shop different companies that do.
DFR has resources available on its website about flood insurance. It is important to be prepared before flooding takes place. One way to do that is to build a financial first-aid kit and inventory. You can do this by:
Saving account numbers – Have a safe place where those are stored and accessible.
Having an inventory of your belongings – Take pictures or videos of your items and write down a record of what you have.
Backing up computer files – Consider backing up your information to a secure cloud storage service or keeping an external device with important information backed up somewhere other than your home.
Securing important documents – It is critical to keep important papers in a water-tight fire safe or a bank deposit box.
More information on this checklist can be found here.
The division also has additional storm damage resources available.
“Water damage from flooding can be devastating to your home,” said Andrew Stolfi, insurance commissioner and Department of Consumer and Business Services director. “Much like a fire, flooding and storm damage can destroy your home and the items you care most about inside it. Being prepared will make dealing with the aftermath much easier.”
If you do have coverage and need to file a claim, immediately contact your insurer or agent. Also, save any receipts from repairs, housing, food, mitigation (sand bags, pumps, etc.) because reimbursements may be part of your coverage.
Before going back into your home, make sure it is safe to do so. Flood damage can make buildings insecure and unsteady. Also, you want to be careful of gas leaks and electrical wires in flooded areas.
If you don’t have flood insurance, consider purchasing it. Even those who don’t live in flood zones are susceptible under certain conditions. Contact your agent or the National Flood Insurance Program.