Be Ready For The Unexpected

September is National Preparedness Month in America. Here in Idaho when it comes to being ready for natural disasters we’re fortunate in many ways. For one, we don’t have to worry about preparing for some of the country’s most devastating events.

We don’t experience hurricanes in the west. Tornadoes, particularly the kind that leave larges swaths of destruction in their path, are rare. Add to this the absence of tsunami’s and tidal waves and our list of potential disasters is smaller than other parts of the country.

However, there are still plenty of natural events that we do need to be ready for and none of them are more destructive than fire. Many of the neighborhoods in our State are located in areas where residential housing intersects with natural vegetation. These “wild zones” are comprised of sagebrush, junipers, deciduous trees, wild grasses, and more. In addition, large numbers of summer homes and cabins are located throughout the state in our beautiful forests and you can quickly see the potential risk.

Of course, homeowners insurance is high on our list of things everyone should have in place to help prepare for the worst. To help residents prepare for fire we have focused on providing advice and leadership to people living in particularly vulnerable locations.

For the past five years Farm Bureau Insurance has helped spearhead a group called the Island Park Sustainable Fire Community. The goal of this nonprofit organization is to increase the public’s awareness of fire risks in Island Park and to provide concrete action items to help property owners reduce exposure to wildfires.

The process starts with a free home evaluation that defines the risk associated with a given property and helps the resident understand the importance of creating defensible space around a property.

Experienced professionals visit home and business owners and evaluate vegetation type, conditions, and location of trees, brush, and other growth. These factors along with a property’s topography determine what would likely contribute to fire behavior.

An evaluation of the buildings, utilities, roads, and other structures that are of value can also be performed if necessary.

It’s an amazing collaboration of like-minded groups including the US Forest Service, Idaho Department of Lands, City of Island Park, Fremont County, The Nature Conservancy, Idaho Department of Home Land Security, Fire Learning Network, High Country RCD, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, and Farm Bureau Insurance.

Sometimes, however, all the planning in the world can’t alter a determined fire’s path of destruction. This was the scenario in 2012 when the Charlotte Fire, near Pocatello, destroyed 78 homes. In times likes these it is important to be prepared to help those who lost their homes and possessions.

Farm Bureau Insurance went into action as soon as the magnitude of the Charlotte blaze was fully understood. Meals were prepared and distributed at the local Red Lion Hotel. Volunteer crews helped homeowners after the fire clear their property and adjoining space. And of course homeowners with Farm Bureau Insurance met with their agents who provided them comforting advice and assurance regarding how the next steps would unfold.

Another potential disaster that deserves some serious attention is flooding. Much like fire, the risks for flooding are highly correlated to the location of a home or business. Depending on where you live you may not even give flood insurance a second thought. Or you might assume that water damage is covered under your homeowner’s policy. In reality flooding is one of the most common natural disasters in Idaho, and we should all be prepared. Just imagine your home is three times more likely to be damaged by a flood than by a fire. It only takes a few inches of water to damage your home and your belongings.

Homeowner policies do not cover damage caused by flooding. A separate policy must be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program. A flood insurance policy offers coverage for both the structure of your home and your personal property.

Typically there’s a 30-day waiting period before a new flood policy goes into effect. That’s why it’s especially important that you purchase a flood policy before severe weather rolls in. Your Farm Bureau Insurance agent can quickly help you see all the issues pertaining to flood insurance so you can make an informed decision.

At Farm Bureau Insurance we are committed to helping people better understand the risks that they face in life. Please let us know if there are specific things that we can do to help you and your family become better prepared.