Karen Reimus is a lawyer and a married mother of two. Karen and her family lost their home and all possessions in the October 2003 Cedar Fire. The firestorm, the largest wildfire in California state history, leveled her suburban San Diego neighborhood. In a previous blog post, Karen told her own story about being underinsured. Today she shares some hard-won insights on how to best mitigate the threat of natural disaster to your home.
After my suburban San Diego home burned down in the Cedar Fire in 2003, I learned first-hand that a natural disaster can hit anyone at anytime. So, is there something we can do to protect our homes and belongings BEFORE disaster strikes? YES!
Whether you live in fire country or earthquake country, there are many ways to mitigate potential damage to your home. Here are just a few:
- Create defensible space around your house
- Install a fire resistant roof
- Box the eaves of your house
- Screen vents
- Strap water heaters
- Anchor your house to its foundation
- Strengthen masonry chimneys
- Clean gutters and roof drains regularly
- Keep a working fire extinguisher in both your kitchen and garage
All these steps will improve your home’s viability and they can lower your insurance premiums. (And, there are MANY more mitigation steps you can take). Call your insurance company to find out what mitigation discounts they offer.
A valuable lesson my neighbors and I learned from the Cedar Fire is that in these days of limited city/county funding, you cannot rely solely on the government to protect you from wildfire risk. When my neighbors and I returned to our rebuilt homes, we took a look at the brush and weeds returning near our neighborhood and decided to do something about it. The majority of the returning brush and weeds were located on property we did not own. Rather than passively hoping someone would do something about it, we undertook our own brush/weed mitigation program and created a two-hundred foot firebreak around the perimeter of our homes. It was a definitely a process with many hurdles to clear, (including obtaining right-of-entry permits from the various entities owning the land abutting our homes), but in the end, it was well worth it.
Would such a firebreak have saved our homes from the Cedar Fire in 2003? No one knows for sure. Nonetheless, all of us feel better knowing that we have done what we can to protect our homes and our community from a future wildfire.
The lesson here is: Don’t wait for a loss to mitigate. MITIGATE NOW!
Homeowners can obtain a free customized fire mitigation plan for their property at: Communitygreenscene.org
Scripps Ranch Fire Safe Council (SRFSC) facilitates neighborhood mitigation planning