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Photograph courtesy of North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District

Have you seen smoke in the distance and a sign on the road that states, “Prescribed Fire Do Not Report”? Typically these areas or roads are blocked off to the public as fire crews deliberately set fires according to carefully developed procedures. This prescribed burning is used to restore forest health and reduce the wildfire threat. In the fall of 2011, I had the opportunity to attend a prescribed burn in Tunnel Creek in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park.  As an element of my master’s thesis project, I lugged camera equipment to the site and took photos 360 degrees around to create a virtual reality (VR). I wanted to interactively communicate the importance of prescribed fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin.  To properly view the VR, turn on the volume to hear Forester Rich Harvey speak about the prescribed fire. You can click and move your mouse across the stitched photos to view the 360 degree panorama faster, and place your cursor over the blue buttons with the lower case “i” to read more information. Adobe Flash is required on your computer to view the VR.  The Tunnel Creek burns were conducted by the Nevada Division of Forestry in cooperation with the Division of State Parks, Division of State Lands and the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.  It was a rare opportunity and an exciting day for me to observe the care taken by the fire crew and the natural work that fire accomplishes to keep a forest healthy.

Click HERE to view the Virtual Reality. Be patient, it may take a few moments to open.

Jamie HeadshotJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

If a fire destroyed your home, would you be able to remember the estimated value and age of all your possessions for insurance purposes? Yea, me neither! Since September is National Preparedness Month, I started an inventory of my personal belongings. It’s important as it provides an accurate record of a homeowner’s possessions, helps process insurance claims faster, and helps one purchase the correct amount of insurance. The inventory is critical to document losses due to fire but also to other causes such as flooding, burglary, and vandalism.

Below I review three recommended methods to inventory one’s belongings. While there may be other options, the important thing is to pick one and become prepared during National Preparedness Month!

A representative from the Nevada Division of Insurance recommended utilizing either a free smart phone app or a PDF inventory sheet created by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).  In addition, the Living With Fire (LWF) Program also has a more detailed inventory sheet.

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An example of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Scr.APP.book app on a smartphone

Both the smartphone App and PDF inventory sheet can be found at the following link: http://www.insureuonline.org/insureu_special_disaster.htm

One can always install the app on their smart phone by searching for Scr.APP.book (see above). The app’s interface is very user friendly and makes it easy to upload photos. Once the app is installed, click the icon, “ADD ITEM” and complete the screen (see above). One can take multiple photos of the item by clicking the camera button at the top, taking a photo and then clicking “OK”. The information entered on the form can be retained by clicking the save button. To view the items already input into the form, click the item list and edit information if necessary. An individual form must be completed for each item in the home. This information can then be exported from the app to be e-mailed, or saved to a computer or flash drive. Additionally, there are tips and resources on the app to connect to the NAIC and become more informed regarding advisable insurance coverage.

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A screenshot of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners home inventory checklist PDF

The PDF inventory sheet is also easy to use but, unlike the app, users must first print the form, record the information by hand and attach separate pictures to the inventory sheet (see above).  Each item’s information such as item identification, price, date purchased, and brand name must be entered on the form for each separate room. The completed form along with photographs can then be retained as a hard copy.  Users must remember to keep the inventory sheet and photos separate from the house. This ensures that in the event of a disaster, the inventory sheet is not destroyed along with the house. Here is a direct link to print the inventory checklist:

http://www.insureuonline.org/home_inventory_checklist.pdf

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Above is a view of the My Household Inventory Checklist by the Living With Fire Program

Unlike the NAIC form, item information can be entered and edited directly on a computer and can be saved to a drive, thumb drive, etc. (see above).  This inventory sheet asks for more information than the NAIC options, BUT also provides users with a more detailed inventory of belongings. The inventory sheet suggests considering items that I normally wouldn’t have, including silverware, clothing, tools, and recreation equipment. The LWF Program inventory also explains how to calculate the current cash value of items and recommends including this as part of the record. While calculating the current cash value of each item isn’t necessary, it helps to estimate the item’s worth for insurance reimbursement purposes. As with the NAIC PDF inventory sheet, pictures must be taken of the items and attached or saved to the PDF. To download this method, click here: http://www.livingwithfire.info/how-we-can-help and scroll down to the “Household Inventory Program” tab.

Out of all three options, I felt that the smartphone app was by far the easiest to use because my smart phone’s camera is linked to the app. The app stores the photos and inventory information all in one place. If I were to complete the other two inventory sheets, I would need to take a photo of each item, print it out, or save it digitally and link it to the completed form. However, I do recommend reviewing the Living With Fire Program’s inventory sheet as it made me consider adding other items that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.  Overall, this process is very time consuming as it took me a total of two hours to document only six items on the app. It’s recommended to inventory one’s belongings for a couple of hours each weekend to prevent documentation burn out. I began my inventory process with the larger, more recently purchased items however after reviewing the LWF inventory, I’ll need to include more of a detailed list such as my silverware and clothing. I’ve started keeping copies of my receipts for my purchased items, making it easier to look up the brand, item’s name, price, etc.  Remember it’s better to have an incomplete list rather than no list at all.  Once your list is complete, store it in a safety deposit box, save a digital copy, or place a copy with a trusted friend or family member. Just ensure the inventory is not destroyed if your house is a total loss.

Jamie HeadshotJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261                       or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

Most homes are destroyed during wildfire by burning embers landing on, in or near the house on something easy to ignite. In this photograph, embers have ignited the house and started several spot fires in the pine needle litter. Photograph courtesy of North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

Have you scrutinized your homeowner’s insurance policy to confirm that you are not underinsured if a wildfire destroys your home? OR did you know that a majority of homes destroyed during wildfire are from embers that can travel up to a mile away from a fire? As a relatively new employee with the Living With Fire Program, I am still learning new things! Some misconceptions continue to surprise me. The following is a list of four common misconceptions I hear regarding wildfire. Read on and be prepared to be debunked!

– Myth 1: If a wildfire destroys my home, my insurance will build me a new home.
Let’s say an individual’s home is destroyed by wildfire. Most homeowners expect their insurance will help them recover from the fire by providing enough money to replace anything damaged or destroyed. According to an expert I spoke with at the Nevada Division of Insurance, a majority of homeowners are under insured or don’t fully understand their insurance coverage. Of the many possible examples, let’s use the car as an example. Say a homeowner is evacuated due to a wildfire, but must leave one car behind parked in the garage and both the car and house are destroyed. The car is not covered by homeowners insurance, and is only covered if the owner has comprehensive auto insurance. This is but one of the many situations to review under your homeowner’s insurance policy. Remember, different insurance companies offer different policies. Due to this wide variation, homeowners should review policy details with their agent or at the very least, thoroughly read their annual policy. For an overview of homeowner’s insurance, please review the Nevada Consumer’s Guide for Home Insurance published by the State of Nevada Department of Business and Industry Division of Insurance, http://doi.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/doinvgov/_public-documents/News-Notes/HomeInsuranceGuide2011B.pdf .

– Myth 2: Firefighters will save my home during a wildfire.
The unfortunate reality of wildfire is there’s no guarantee that firefighters will be able to save your home. It’s projected that the wildfire threat in the Western United States will continue to increase. Since 1991, more than half of the new homes built were in wildland areas and are easily-ignitable, according to the research firm Headwaters Economics in Montana. The US Forest Service estimates that 15 million homes in the U.S. are at risk of being destroyed by wildfire. Unfortunately there will never be enough resources to protect every single home during a large wildfire incident. However, a home with defensible space, appropriate home construction and routine maintenance can increase a home’s survivability. An even greater impact is a “Fire Adapted Community,” or a community of people who work together to reduce the wildfire threat and prepare in advance to survive wildfire. This is a community that is adapted to survive wildfire with little or no assistance from firefighters. View the Fire Adapted Communities publication to help reduce the wildfire threat. http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2011/sp1101.pdf#search=”fire adapted communities”

-Myth 3: During a wildfire, I’ll defend my home using my lawn sprinklers and a garden hose.
I’ve actually heard a neighbor say this one to me. During a wildfire, running yard sprinklers or water from your hose bib outdoors can affect crucial water pressure that’s necessary for firefighters to combat the fire. Conversely, because the firefighters are using the water supply, there might not be enough pressure to even power sprinklers or a hose. Another reason why one shouldn’t rely on their yard’s watering equipment to fight a wildfire is the possibility of no water at all. If the electricity is out, a home’s water source might not work due to electrical pump failure. When evacuating a home during a wildfire, it is recommended that homeowners connect garden hoses to outdoor faucets so firefighters can have access to them if necessary, but don’t leave the water running. For more tips on safe evacuation during a wildfire, see the evacuation information at http://www.livingwithfire.info/during-the-fire

– Myth 4: Direct contact with the wildfire flame front is why most homes are destroyed.
We’ve all seen the news footage of a wildfire where a huge wall of orange flames rush in to threaten a home. Contrary to popular belief, most homes do not ignite from direct contact with flame front. Most homes, an estimated 90%, are destroyed from embers. Depending on fire intensity, wind speed and the size of burning materials, embers can travel more than a mile away from the fire. These embers can become lodged in something easily ignited on, in or near the house, eventually starting a small fire which can grow and destroy the home. Proper attention to these vulnerable, easily-ignited areas of the home helps to decrease the home’s risk to being destroyed by wildfire. Check out the Be Ember Aware publication to identify these vulnerable spots at http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2009/fs0905.pdf#search=”be ember aware”

Jamie HeadshotJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261                       or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

Recently, I had a defensible space inspection performed on my property by Nevada Division of Forestry’s fire protection officer, Chanse Hunwardsen. Chanse noted some problem areas that I have previously addressed in former blogs, and he also addressed some issues that I had not considered. Watch this video to learn what issues were found and how to resolve them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tuvMbjlRIY&feature=youtu.be

To learn more about our interactive defensible space graphic, check it out here.

Jamie HeadshotJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shephard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.