(LOS ANGELES, Oct. 13, 2008) – Today’s Santa Ana winds and wildfires in the San Fernando Valley and Porter Ranch have already damaged many homes. The Automobile Club of Southern California is advising residents to prepare for possible evacuation if they live in the area of the wildfire or even if they live in an area susceptible to wildfires.
Auto Club policyholders with claims should call (800) 67-CLAIM or (800) 672-5246.
Do not delay obeying an evacuation order to pack items in your car, but if you have time prior to an order, the Auto Club recommends placing the following emergency items in your vehicle:
- State and local maps
- Cell phone car charger
- Fully equipped first aid kit
- First aid manual
- Prescription medicine
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable foods
- Extra clothes and shoes
- Tissues, pre-moistened towels, and toiletries
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Flashlight with extra batteries and bulb
- Pocket radio and extra batteries
- Small tool kit (screwdriver, pliers, wire, pocket knife, can opener, duct tape)
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding evacuations:
Question: How can I find real-time information on road closures?
Answer: For up to date information on road closures, visit the California Department of Transportation online or call 1-800-427-ROAD (7623).
Question: Where can I find the most recent information about emergency shelters?
Answer: If you are in need of emergency shelter, water, or food, please call 1-800-REDCROSS, visit the Red Cross Greater Los Angeles chapter online or find your local Red Cross chapter online.
Question: I'm having trouble finding a hotel with availability; what can I do?
Answer: If you need help finding a hotel, call our reservations number at 1-877-222-1020 or use the Auto Club’s online travel booking service. Auto Club travel agents have access to the most up-to-date information on hotel availability and can assist you immediately.
Question: I want to let my family know I'm safe, but I'm having a hard time getting in touch with them. What can I do?
Answer: People affected by the wildfires are encouraged to register themselves on the Red Cross Safe and Well Website. People without access to a computer or without electricity or connectivity can call the Red Cross (1-800-REDCROSS) for help registering, or register a loved one on their behalf.
Question: I am concerned about the safety of friends and family members who have been evacuated. What can I do?
Answer: Family members and friends can log on to the Red Cross Safe and Well Website and search for registered individuals to learn of their whereabouts and status.
Question: If I have to leave my home due to the fires, even if it is not ultimately damaged, are my hotel expenses covered?
Answer: The Auto Club’s homeowners, condominium owners, and renters policies all provide coverage for additional living expense when a civil authority has ordered you out of your home. This coverage provides for not just hotel expenses, but any reasonable and necessary costs that you actually incur including food and clothing that you may need to purchase. This coverage is provided for up to a two-week period during the time the authorities do not allow you to return to your home.
Question: What do I need to do to file a claim?
Answer: To get the process started all you need to do is to call our Claims Department, see a claims adjuster at an evacuation center or visit a nearby Auto Club district office. You can also reach us by telephone by calling 1-800-67-CLAIM or 1-800-672-5246.
Question: What happens after I report my claim?
Answer: So we may get assistance to you quickly, you need to contact us as soon as possible. In some cases we can get help to you right away for your additional living expenses. After you contact us, our claims staff will help you through the process and explain what you may need to do. In some cases we will need to inspect the damage to your property and get statements from you. This process helps us make sure we are providing all of the coverage available to you.
Question: What happens if the cost to replace my home is greater than the amount of insurance coverage that I've purchased?
Answer: For many people this can be a huge concern. That is why it is important to maintain adequate levels of insurance. Many companies have limits or caps in their policy. If this is the case, if it costs more to replace the house than the amount of insurance you had on the policy then you will be responsible for the difference.
Fortunately, many of the homes insured with the Auto Club, and built after 1950, qualify for and have Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage. To determine if your policy contains this coverage, you can check your declarations page or call 1-800-67-CLAIMS.
If you have Guaranteed Replacement Cost coverage and have met the requirements for maintaining this coverage, then any loss that exceeds the limit stated in your declarations for your dwelling (Coverage A) will be settled for the actual cost to repair or rebuild the dwelling, without regard for the limit stated in the declarations. This means you will not have to pay the difference if you happen to be underinsured.
Question: If the power has been out due to the fires and the food in my refrigerator spoils, do I have coverage?
Answer: Yes. Your policy provides up to $500 in coverage for damage or spoilage of perishable foods that are kept in your refrigerator or freezer in your home.
Question: If the fire destroys the trees, shrubs, plants, or lawn on my home's property, is there any coverage?
Answer: Yes. Your policy provides additional insurance for plant materials. It is limited to 5% of your Coverage A (Dwelling) with a limit of not more than $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant. So if your home is insured for $150,000, you can get up to $7,500 coverage for all of your trees, shrubs, plants, or lawn.
Question: Do I have coverage for smoke damage?
Answer: Your policy does cover your property that has actually been damaged by soot or smoke residue. Just a smoky smell in the home is not enough, but if soot or smoke residue adheres to your property you might have coverage.
Question: Fortunately my house was saved from the fire; however, it was damaged by a water drop from fire fighting equipment. Is this damage covered? What about sticky fire retardant foam?
Answer: Yes, any damage done to your house is covered for these types of losses.
Question: If my house has been damaged or destroyed by fire and the local building codes have changed since my house was built, will these additional costs be covered?
Answer: Yes. Your policy provides some additional limits to make improvement to comply with changes in building codes. There are conditions that apply, so you'll have to review your policy or consult with one of our claims representatives for exact details.
Question: I don’t have my policy number. I left it at home. Is that going to be a problem?
Answer: Don’t worry about providing your policy number. All we need to get started is the address of the insured property and your phone number.
Question: Can I file my claim online?
Answer: Yes, you can start the claim process online by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In order to help us get started, please include your home address, two phone numbers where we can reach you immediately, and a brief description of what has happened (fire damage, smoke damage, water damage, wind damage, evacuation expenses, etc.).