Protecting our belongings is so important. We work hard for what we own, and we want to safeguard our belongings. Most of us take measures against things like theft by ensuring that we lock our doors. But what can we do to protect ourselves against something as seemingly random as fire? Much depends on the circumstances. If you are a homeowner, you are obligated by law and the banks to carry insurance that will at least provide some coverage if a fire should occur in your home.
But what about if you are renting? The landlord’s homeowner’s insurance will cover some things, but not all. In far too many cases, the landlord’s policy only covers the building itself, not the possessions of each individual tenant. Many renters have found themselves in the position of losing everything and having no coverage whatsoever. How, then, can you protect your possessions from fire?
1. Take precautions to avoid a fire started through carelessness or distractions. Many a fire has resulted when a pan full of hot oil is left heating on the stove, and the phone rings in another room or a crying child demands attention.
2. Be careful with candles and fireplaces and open flames. Unattended candles are common causes of many apartment or home fires. If you have a fireplace, have it inspected and cleaned regularly. An open flame outside, such as a fire pit or a barbecue, always needs to be extinguished properly. Don’t leave combustibles carelessly stored, and don’t leave children unaccompanied with lighters or matches. Children need to be taught from an early age that fire is dangerous, and matches and lighters always need to be kept in a safe place.
3. Make sure you have a functional smoke detector or fire alarm, and check the batteries periodically.
4. Keep an accurate and up-to-date record of everything you own, not just items of value, so that if the worst should ever occur, you have a starting point to replace what you’ve lost. Videotaping is a good way to do this, and there are a number of companies that offer cataloguing services to ensure that you have a comprehensive record of everything you possess.
5. Purchase a fire-resistant safe or strong box in which to store possessions that are vulnerable to fire loss, such as important papers or photographs.
6. Keep your records and essential papers elsewhere, perhaps in a bank safe deposit box, or downloaded into a computer record that is stored away from where you live.
7. Most importantly, carry renter’s insurance so that if you do lose your possessions in a fire, you stand some chance of replacing these.
8. Carry not just basic renter’s insurance, but replacement-cost renter’s insurance. This usually does not add much to the monthly premium and it allows you to actually replace your possessions should the worst occur.
9. Make sure your renter’s insurance covers acts outside of your control, for example, a fire caused by the tenant next door who gets distracted and forgets the pot on the stove; or liability, such as a drunken partier who falls asleep with a cigarette and accidentally sets a fire in your bedroom.
10. Finally, your renter’s insurance is only as good as your record keeping. It’s not enough to just catalogue your possessions and forget about it. Do a yearly review to update your files, and get in the habit of always adding new and major purchases to your inventory.
Protecting your possessions from fire is not an onerous task, but a necessary one, and the most important components are maintaining awareness of fire risks, keeping good records, and making sure that you have adequate insurance. Whether you are a renter or a homeowner - having an insurance policy is the best way to safeguard what you own.