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AOAO Fire Losses: Prevention, Protection and Action

Fire is one of the leading causes of insurance claims for Community Associations. Although fire losses do not occur as often as water losses, fire losses have the potential to be catastrophic and our homes are always susceptible to fire damage.  To address this exposure, our AOAO team had the pleasure of hosting a panel discussion centered on fire prevention and how to handle fire claims in the event of a loss.  Our approach focused on providing a 360 degree view for attendees, offering actionable items for AOAOs to implement.

Fire losses can be brought on by many culprits: normal wear and tear, storm forces, neglect of necessary maintenance as well as the lack of a safety plan. Here are some simple and proactive steps that can be taken to minimize the frequency of fire claims, as well as some claims tips in the event your Association or unit suffers a fire loss.

Prevention: Fire Prevention and Safety

No one ever wants to experience a fire in their home, but are you doing everything to prevent that from happening? The overall best strategy is prevention.

Be aware of potential fire hazards in your home:

  • Power Hazards – From extension cords, multiplug adapters, power strips and more, our homes are filled with many potential fire hazards. The key to safely utilizing these devices is to be sure to use as intended, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure not to overload circuits, piggy back power sources, or use temporary wiring as permanent solutions. Work with your residents and staff to be on the lookout for potential misuse of power accessories, along with frayed and loose wires at plugs and junctions. Discontinue use and replace any potential hazards.
  • Kitchen and Cooking Surfaces – According to the U.S. Fire Administration 50.3% of all fires in 2018 were caused by incidents in the kitchen. Tips from The National Fire Protection Association include:
    • If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
    • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
    • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
    • Keep anything that can catch fire—oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains—away from the stovetop.
  • Heating devices – While many homes in Hawaii may not have portable heaters; coffee makers, irons, and toasters are common heating devices found in homes. Be sure to place these in areas free of flammable objects such as draperies, magazines, newspapers, and furniture. A recommended best practice is to always unplug these devices when not in use. Dryers also pose a great risk for fire. Turn the dryer off if you leave home or before going to bed, and ensure to clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry.
  • Smoke Alarms – Lastly but most importantly, smoke alarms save lives. 94% of all homes in the U.S. have at least one smoke alarm, but surveys show that up to half of these smoke alarms do not work because the battery is either dead or missing (National Fire Safety Council).
    • Smoke alarms should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
    • Make sure your residents understand the sound of the smoke alarm and know how to respond.
    • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning to keep smoke alarms working well. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the Internet.
    • Smoke alarms with any type of battery need a new battery at least once a year. If the alarm chirps warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.

Protection: Insuring for the Unknown

While fire prevention is vital, insurance provides peace of mind for the unforeseen. Lack of insurance may result in steep out of pocket costs to recover from a large fire loss.

Fortunately, the Master Insurance Policy for AOAOs include fire as a covered cause of loss. Additionally, most homeowner insurance policies cover fire, but it’s not always enough. Some important items to consider:

  • Risks of Underinsurance – The key here is to make sure that your policy provides you with enough Do you have adequate limits to rebuild (including upgrades) and replace your contents? Do you have adequate coverage for additional living expense? Do you have enough coverage to cover the AOAO deductible?
  • Perform a Home Inventory – Create an inventory list and keep video or photographs of your personal property.

When fires happen, it is imperative to know the details of the covering insurance policy. It is highly recommended that your insurance agent or broker review coverage and go over any changes at regular yearly intervals. Prevention is important but having a comprehensive insurance plan is always a great countermeasure.

Action: When Damage Occurs

In the unfortunate event of a fire, here are some tips to start the claims and restoration process. Once the fire is extinguished, it is time to take action. The structure and contents will most likely be wet and may have been affected by smoke.  Each fire incident will differ, but it is a safe practice to call a restoration company immediately to begin assessment of the damages and start the water/smoke mitigation process.

In the event of a fire and potential insurance claim, John Mullen & Company and the DCCA Hawaii Insurance Division recommends the following tips:

  • Check for damages and take photos of the damages.
  • Promptly report damage to your insurance company, broker/agent.
  • For personal HO6 condo unit policies, review for Loss of Use Provisions for Additional Living Expenses or Fair Rental Value coverages.
  • Work with your insurance adjuster and contractor to estimate the cost and when to start permanent repairs.
  • Receive your claim check and begin repairs. There may be supplemental payments issued by the insurance company if additional damage is discovered in the course of repairs and as you replace your damaged items.
  • Be careful of scams. Do not sign your entire claims check over to a contractor.

Get In Touch

Fires are unpredictable and can happen to anyone, therefore it is imperative to be aware of potential fire hazards, be proactive with fire prevention measures and have comprehensive insurance protection for your home and assets.  If you would like additional information including resources from the panel discussion that was held by our AOAO team, please contact egascon@atlasinsurance.com.

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