All areas of U.S. are assigned a rating depending on the available fire protection services. These ratings are called fire protection classes. Particularly in rural areas, your fire protection class can have a major influence on your insurance costs.
Fire is one of the leading — and costliest —causes of homeowners insurnce claims. Therefore, an insurance company will consider your home’s risk of fire-related damage when determining what it will charge for your homeowners insurance.
To assess your home’s vulnerability to fire, underwriters will evaluate the structure itself. A wood-frame house is more likely to be completely destroyed in a fire than a brick or stucco house. Likewise, a house with wooden roof shingles is more likely to catch on fire than a house with asphalt shingles or metal roofing.
Your insurer will also look at firefighting resources nearby. The Insurance Services Office (ISO) assigns fire protection classes based on how close a property is to a hydrant, the number of fire stations nearby, how fast they can respond to calls and how well equipped the firefighters are. Rating classes range from 1 to 10. The lower your fire protection class rating, the lower your risk. For example, a property in a rural area with no hydrants and no fire station nearby might have a fire protection rating of 10, while an urban property right next to a hydrant and a fire station might have a rating of one.
You probably don’t have a lot of control over the firefighting services in your area, at least if you need insurance right now. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your home’s risk of fire:
Ensure you have working smoke alarms where needed. Every home should have at least one alarm per level, plus smoke alarms inside and outside all sleeping areas.
- Replace your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms regularly. Nearly everyone knows they should test and replace the batteries in their smoke alarms. But did you know that you should replace your smoke alarms regularly? Even if you test your alarms regularly, that only verifies that the signal works. The sensors built into these systems can lose sensitivity with time. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years; carbon monoxide alarms every five years.
- Change batteries in your alarms and test alarms every six months. A good time to remember to do this is when times change for daylight savings and standard time.
- Ensure your family knows the sound of the smoke alarm. Also, know how to turn it off without destroying the alarm, in case of malfunction. If an alarm malfunctions, make sure that dust or other debris isn’t triggering the sensor. Sometimes vacuuming the alarms can fix that problem. If that doesn’t work, call a professional or buy a replacement alarm. Never just disconnect an alarm without replacing it!
- Have a fire escape plan and make sure everyone in the family knows it. If you have disabled family members, make plans to ensure that the neighbors know you have a disabled family member who might need help if a fire occurs when nobody else is at home.
- Have at least two ways out of every room. In the case of upper-story bedrooms, keep a rope ladder or other escape system by the window or in another conveniently located area.
- Keep barbecue grills outdoors and at least three feet away from siding and overhangs. If you use a gas grill, keep it well-maintained. Seventy-nine percent of all home grill fires involve gas grills. Mechanical failure or malfunction can lead to a grill fire. Leaks or breaks of containers or pipes are often to blame.
- Avoid alcohol use while grilling or cooking. Alcohol use contributes to 40 percent of fire deaths because of accidents, heavier sleeping, and bad judgment.
- If you do experience a home fire, be sure to get your fire department’s all-clear before re-entering the home. Smoke and toxic fumes can cause permanent lung damage. Fire and water from firefighting can damage the structure of a building and make it unsafe.
- Keep a defensible area around your home and any other structures to prevent wildfires from spreading. Defensible space is the area around a structure landscaped to reduce the chance that fire can reach it. Fire uses vegetation like a road, to travel place to place, and by removing or breaking up vegetation a homeowner can break up or remove the paths that fire might use to get to the house.
Creating defensible space involves cutting back branches that overhang the house; clearing vegetation and plant debris from near the house; removing plant debris from roofs and gutters and from under porches, decks and wooden steps; and keeping lawns and shrubs near the house watered and green.
The amount of defensible space you should create varies with your climate, terrain and locale; check with the local fire department for details.
Before buying a property, check out its fire protection class, its flood zone and earthquake zone, as these can greatly affect your coverage costs. For more information about fire protection services and the protection class of your area, go to https://www.isomitigation.com/ppc/iso-s-public-protection-classification-ppc-program.html
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