LOS ANGELES, Calif. (May 5, 2011) – As wildfires scorch bone-dry eastern Arizona, local homeowners are scrambling to protect their families, pets, homes and businesses. In many instances, widespread evacuations are in effect.
“While residents hastily gather personal belongings and seek safe refuge, their insurance policies are probably not top-of-mind,” said Joanna Moore, Mercury Insurance chief claims officer. “We totally understand this, which is why the Mercury claims team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ready to assist policyholders at any given moment. Those affected by the firestorms should contact the Mercury claims hotline at (800) 503-3724 so we can expedite claims and start the process of helping our customers put their lives together again.”
Mercury has published tips on its website (http://www.mercuryinsurance.com/tips/wildfire-preparedness.html) to help families prepare for wildfires and limit potential damage. “Mercury and its agents are determined to assist our customers – before, during and after disaster strikes,” said Moore.
Returning home after evacuation
· If your home has sustained serious structural damage, be extremely careful inside. Debris can be hazardous and the structure could be unstable.
· If your home is uninhabitable, find out what additional living expenses Mercury may provide.
When filing a claim
· Prepare to file your claim by gathering all relevant policy numbers. Contact Mercury immediately to report your loss. Claims can be reported 24 hours a day, seven days a week via the Mercury Claims Hotline at (800) 503-3724.
· Do not remove debris or damaged property that may be related to your claim.
· Remember to provide claims adjusters with alternate (mobile) contact phone numbers.
Steps after filing a claim
· Prepare a detailed inventory of destroyed or damaged property.
· If available, offer photos or videotapes of your home and possessions to your adjuster.
· Keep copies of communications between you and your adjuster.
· If you were forced to leave your home, keep records and receipts for additional living expenses that were incurred and provide copies to your adjuster.
Additionally, Mercury Insurance, which has been protecting families since 1962, has compiled some important wildfire preparation tips:
· Create a fire buffer zone around your house of at least 30 feet. If you live in a high wildfire risk area, increase this space to at least 100 feet. Remove all buildup of needles and leaves from roof and gutters. Keep tree limbs cut back at least 10 feet from chimneys and remove dry limbs overhanging the home and garage. Plant native fire resistant plants such as succulents and create low fuel hardscapes.
· Replace exterior flammable materials on your home with siding and roofs that have at least a fire-resistance rating of one to two hours. “Class A” fire-retardant roof materials such as tile are recommended. Exterior home walls should be built with materials like stucco or brick and have double-pane and tempered windows. Do not connect wood fences to your home. A spark arrestor constructed of at least 12-gauge welded or woven wire mesh screen with openings no larger than half-inch over your chimney outlet is required by law. Additionally, place screens over vents to prevent embers from entering your home.
· Move flammable and combustible items at least 50 feet from your home. Firewood, outdoor patio furniture, picnic tables, boats, propane tanks, etc., should be clear of your home and other structures.
· Keep irrigation systems in working order. Check hoses and sprinkler systems to ensure proper functionality and coverage of your entire home, including roofs and exterior structure walls. Have a ladder available to access roofs.
· Pools can serve as a water source for fighting fires. Have your pool accessible for fire engines to get within 10 feet or equip it with a bottom drain and 2 ½-inch pipe system ending in a fire hydrant with national standard thread. Additionally, pumps with suction hoses that reach the bottom of the pool can be used.
· Have your home address visible from the street so emergency crews can identify your home quickly during an emergency.
For a complete list of fire prevention tips and and fire kits for the home, visit www.mercuryinsurance.com/insurance-products/insurance-tips.html. Additional details can be found at http://www.azfireinfo.az.gov/ and www.firewise.org. Check your local ordinances for fire preparation guidelines.
ABOUT MERCURY INSURANCE (www.mercuryinsurance.com)
Mercury Insurance (MCY) is a multiple-line insurance organization offering predominantly personal automobile and homeowners insurance through a network of independent agents in California, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, New York, Georgia, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Since 1962, Mercury has specialized in offering quality insurance at affordable prices - core values that distinguish Mercury in the marketplace.