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.

naic-checklist-pdf

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.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

Did you know that I grew up in Illinois? Yup… the good ol’ Midwest. We don’t live with the threat of wildfire in that neck of the woods – our “gift” from Mother Nature comes in the form of a mighty whirlwind called a tornado. When I moved to Reno, I thought I had mostly escaped tornadoes … but did you know there is such a thing as a “fire tornado” … otherwise known as a “fire whirl”? This event, although rare, is highly destructive and occurs when a fire is whipped up by strong, hot, dry air currents to form a vertical whirl – literally creating a tornado full of fire!  Their occurrence is not only visually spectacular but alerts firefighters of very unstable air and extreme fire behavior.

Fire whirls can uproot trees and can carry flaming debris great distances! Some of the largest fire whirls can be more than half a mile tall, produce winds over 100 mph and last for more than 20 minutes. Not surprisingly, these flaming tornadoes can ignite new fires by moving into unburned territory. Fire whirls are so threatening, that virtually all state forestry services include fire whirl basics in their training. I don’t know about you, but I am happy that I won’t have to deal with them anytime soon. It definitely helps me to appreciate my firefighters that much more and peaks my awareness level about MY part in being prepared for wildfires. Remember, that while our friend Smokey Bear says … only YOU can prevent wildfires, it is also true that only WE can prepare our homes for wildfire when it occurs. Check out how you can prepare your home for wildfire here!

Do you have any experiences with fire whirls? Please share your stories in the comments below!

About the Author: Jenny Digesti is the Assistant for the Living With Fire Program. You can follow her on twitter here.

To-go bag essentials

To-go bag essentials

I was talking with my friend, Jed Horan, from the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District and he suggested I write a blog on the importance of having an evacuation plan, knowing a route out of my neighborhood and what to do if that evacuation route was blocked.

What a great idea, I thought…

However, once I sat down to write this article, I realized a couple of things:

  1. My husband and I are not prepared for a real life evacuation at all, and
  2. Preparing for an evacuation is not a simple “one-size-fits-all” topic.

In order to set a good example, I want to start prepping now before it is too late. My first stop was to the Living With Fire website where I discovered some general wildfire evacuation preparation guidelines that can help beginners, like me, get started. Writing this blog really got me thinking about important subjects that I had not thought of before such as:

  • Creating a Family Emergency Plan
    • Who would my husband and I contact? And how?
    • Where would we meet?
    • What would we take?
    • Where is our escape route and safe place?
    • Do we know how to turn off the water, gas and electricity?
  • Essentials for a “to-go” bag (click here for tips)
  • Disaster Supply Kits (tips on making this kit here)
  • Preparing for Pets
    • What if our dog, Bella, was at doggy daycare? Do they have an emergency response plan?
    • Don’t forget about pet food!

I don’t know about you, but I am glad my Living With Fire teammates brought this to my attention. Wildfires are inevitable – so preparing for them in advance can help ease your stress a bit. I’ve got a lot of planning ahead of me, but feel free to follow me and join in on my journey as I tackle each one of these steps. I’ll keep you updated on my progress here and you can help hold me accountable! Meanwhile, I’m still working on my defensible space from last month … click here to see that post.

What about you? Are you prepared for a wildfire evacuation?  Do you have any tips to help me prepare?

Comment below!

About the Author: Jenny Digesti is the Assistant for the Living With Fire Program. You can follow her on twitter here.