As a native Tennessean, I’ve been watching with awe as Gatlinburg has regrouped and rebuilt in the wake of the late-2016 wildfires. Tennesseans are tough and resilient and inclined to pitch in and help each other, and that catastrophe put that into the foreground once again.
Months later, we’re seeing a more clear picture of the damage that occurred as those wildfires moved through 16,000 acres around the Great Smoky Mountains.
The most heartbreaking: 14 lives lost. The fires also damaged or destroyed more than 2,400 structures, and led to upwards of $1 billion in damages. Fighting the fire cost more than $8.8 million, and in just the month of December, tourism revenue in the area was off by $19 million.
Some Gatlinburg residents and business owners still face extra struggles, too, because of uninsured or under-insured properties.
Every part of that is heartbreaking to me, but the latter is where I think I can be of some help, in sharing information about getting adequate insurance, and helping my neighbors in Nashville understand (and get) the coverage they need.
Protecting your home against fire damage
An unfortunate reality wildfires like this remind us of: Even if we’re unfailingly diligent, a fire can happen in our community, and reach our home.
From wildfires to home fires, the stats are scary: According to the National Fire Protection Association, a U.S. fire department responds to a fire every 23 seconds.
Brush, grass and forest fires are a big part of that statistic — 22 percent — but home fires are more often caused by things we can control. Cooking equipment is by far the biggest contributor, causing almost half of home structure fires, according to the NFPA. Heating equipment contributes to 16 percent of home fires, and electrical/lighting equipment leads to 9 percent.
The National Fire Protection Association has a broad and deep collection of fire safety tip sheets, covering everything from proper use of household equipment to escape planning. The sheets are worth a read if you’re a Nashville homeowner or renter, so you’re prepped to do everything you can to avoid a home fire, and keep yourself and your family safe if one does happen.
Making sure you’re insured
Personal safety is the first concern, and stuff is just stuff. But one thing being properly insured can do: make the difficult task of regrouping after a home fire just a little bit easier.
— If you’re a renter, don’t wait to get renters insurance. It’s easy to get, affordable and valuable. Don’t expect your landlord’s insurance policy to cover your stuff; it’ll only cover his or her belongings, not yours. A quick overview of renters insurance benefits here.
— Make sure your home insurance policy is updated consistently, especially if you renovate or update your home. Even adding a shed or privacy fence changes the financial picture, and you want your coverage to adequately represent your assets. Some more about why and when to update your home insurance here.
— If you have some valuable belongings (anything from jewelry to pricey guitars or antique furniture), consider personal articles insurance. The limits on personal belongings for your average home insurance policy probably won’t be high enough to replace those treasures, and a personal articles policy can bridge that gap. Some more detail about personal articles insurance here.
— Don’t over-insure your home. This may seem to run counter to the above point, but it doesn’t; your home itself and the stuff inside your home kind of live on their own insurance planes, in a sense. For your home insurance policy, you want to make sure that you’re covered for the replacement value of the structure, but not the market value, which includes the dirt it sits on. This is one of the more common insurance mistakes people make, and correcting it probably leaves space in your budget for decent personal articles insurance, and then some.
If you have any questions about how to make sure your Nashville home and belongings are protected against loss — from fire, storm damage or anything else — I’d be more than happy to help. Just give me a call or send me an email.
An easy, quick way to get started, if you prefer to stay digital: Head here to get an online insurance quote from Tucker Coverage.
Any other topics you’d like to see me talk about on the blog? Please reach out and let me know.