NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: Safeguarding Your Home and Valuables Before Disaster Strikes

Wildfires, as we have seen recently in California, are the most destructive force in nature. Nothing can be done to avert the phenomenon of a wall of fire consuming everything in its path. They seem to flare up quickly and spread rapidly in dry and windy conditions.

Wildfire is Coming

In 2016 alone, over 67,000 wildfires were reported across the United States. You can’t outrun a fast-moving firestorm. If you live in a fire-prone area, there are steps you can take to protect your family, home and possessions by at least minimizing some of the risks.

Don’t wait until a wildfire is imminent to prepare. Think ahead because preparation is vitally important. It is recommended that brush and dead branches, undergrowth, leaves and wood piles be cleared a minimum of 30 feet and more around the perimeter of the house. You don’t want to give burning embers additional fuel as they get closer to your home. Make sure you have enough garden hoses.

Store important papers including home inventory, appraisals and insurance policies in a fire-resistant metal box or safe or in another secure location off the property. Assess your possessions and decide which valuables are most important to you. What would you take with you if you had to evacuate? Make certain they are things that can be moved easily and quickly into your car.

Prepare an emergency “go bag” with water, face masks, some type of food and a first-aid kit.  Store it so you have easy access and can grab it on your way out. Have a plan in mind for what to do with your pets.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

If you face possible evacuation but have some time, these steps might help protect your property. Move furniture to the center of the room and take down drapes and curtains. Close all windows and doors to prevent drafts. Shut off gas from the source. Turn on all lights so that firefighters can see your house easily through the smoke.

The article How to Save What’s Priceless When Disaster Strikes onthe website houzz.com advises on what to do immediately following a fire and how to assess damage. The author, Gwendolyn Purdom, particularly stresses before and after documentation. Photograph everything in your home for your records. Afterward take pictures of what has been damaged or destroyed. Disasters are extremely stressful, and photos are a valuable aid for insurance purposes.

Floods and mudslides are often the result of the aftermath of a major fire. Ms. Purdom  discusses fire and flood damage and how and what it is possible to rescue and restore. Check your fire and earthquake insurance policies and make certain they are up-to-date. Flood insurance might also be a consideration.

Earthquakes and wildfires are ever present calamities waiting to happen, particularly in California. Knowing you’ve done all you can do to protect your home and family before a disaster strikes is really all that can be done.

In 2016, records show 19,000 earthquakes, about 52 a day, had occurred all over the United States. Major temblors have struck various areas of the country throughout its history.   

Were you aware California averages 19 earthquakes a day?  The entire state of California is riddled with faults, so earthquakes happen more frequently and are usually of greater magnitude. You may not even be aware one has happened, or you might feel a slight jiggle, tremble or even a short, sharp jolt.   You never know when one will strike. The last major quake in California in 2014 struck Napa and the wine country north of San Francisco, resulting in a half-billion dollars in damages.

The possibility of an earthquake may be buried in the back of one’s mind, but there is always an awareness— sooner or later it’s going to happen. Hopefully, not The Big One.

There are hazards in living near an active fault line. If you construct your home on a steep hillside to take advantage of the view, potential landslides must be taken into consideration. An oceanfront home can easily be destroyed by an earthquake-triggered tsunami.  Poor construction, especially in older structures, can cause a building to collapse into a heap of rubble. These are some of the things you must keep in mind if you live in an area prone to earthquakes.

Landslides, tsunami’s and building collapse may be extreme results of a powerful earthquake. But you can protect your possessions in more moderate shaking by earthquake-proofing the furniture and valuable items in your home.

This is a fairly inexpensive and easily accomplished do-it-yourself project. It simply requires properly securing any object that might fall over and be damaged or broken. This not only protects your valuables, but also you and your family.

There are a number of products on the market for this purpose: furniture anchors and wall straps for securing bookcases, hutches and curio cabinets to the wall, safety straps for heavy objects such as wall-mounted TV’s, framed artworks and sculptures and cabinet safety latches to keep doors from flying open.

Quake Hold, a soft, easily removable and non-damaging putty-like substance, keeps breakables and collectibles securely in place during an earthquake. In use by museums everywhere, it is a valuable tool for minimizing damage due to breakage.

A good hardware store, as well as Lowe’s and Home Depot will have all the necessary supplies needed as well as advice from knowledgeable staff. Everything is also available on Amazon and other internet sites.

The Hartford website is a valuable source of information on earthquake safety. Excellent advice on how to secure everything in your home can be found on doityourself.com.

Natural disasters can strike suddenly. They can’t be predicted. You can only be as prepared as possible in order to ensure the safety of your family, home and valuable possessions.

As a personal property appraiser, I am often asked to assist with claims after the fact.  It is much better to have your valuables documented and appraised before a disaster strikes.

Sources

Wildfire and Earthquake Safety

Build a Kit

Securing Appliances, Furniture and Valuables for Earthquakes

How to Save What’s Priceless When Disaster Strikes

How to Prepare for a Wildfire

Pet Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

Insurance Coverage for Valuable Possessions

Your home / condo owners or renters insurance policy should be reviewed once a year to make sure your coverage is right for your current needs.  One of the most common mistakes people make is to assume their valuable possessions are covered under their standard property policy.  This is not true in most cases.

Some of the items that need extra protection include jewelry, furs, cameras, silverware, antiques, musical instruments, collections, fine art and manuscripts or books.  Some policies don’t cover breakage, so if you have a collection of art glass or porcelain you may need special coverage as well.

Additional protection can be obtained by purchasing scheduled personal property coverage or a floater / rider.   Rates are generally a small percentage of the total value of the items you are insuring.  To determine the value, you’ll need to provide a receipt or hire an independent appraiser qualified to appraise the type of items you have.

Everyone’s policy is different, so check with your insurer to determine your needs.   If you purchase new items you’ll need to add them to your policy as well.  Review your policy regularly.

Resources:

Insurance Coverage: Know Your Choices from A Homeowners Insurance Guide to Natural Disasters

What is Covered by Standard Homeowners Insurance? from the Insurance Information Institute

International Society of Appraisers

 

About the Author: Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a certified appraiser of personal property designated in Antiques and Residential Contents with the International Society of Appraisers. She is based in Southern California and serves the San Diego and Palm Desert regions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death, Debt, Divorce, Disaster – The 4 D’s

We don’t like to think about it, but there are several situations where our art, antiques and collectibles will be affected in a major way.   Life’s events have a way of separating us from our possessions.

The Canadian Chapter of the International Society of Appraisers recently posted a good article on the subject titled “Not Till Death, Debt, Divorce Do We Part” by Julia McLaren.   It discusses the first three D’s and how proper planning and use of professional appraisers can assist during these times.

I would like add a fourth “D” to the list ….. disaster.  Our beloved objects can be damaged or in the worst case scenario, destroyed.  I discussed this subject in an earlier post titled  “Protecting Your Valuables from a Disaster”.

Protection of your collection and planning for the future is essential.  By having an inventory and professional appraisal, you can make informed decisions regarding insurance, donation, division or liquidation.  At the end of every episode of the TV show “Strange Inheritance” they remind us “you can’t take it with you”.

How to Ship Antiques Safely

antiquedresserA dresser owned by a queen. A teapot once used by your great, great grandmother. When we ship antiques, we’re not just moving around things; we’re shipping history from here to there.

We care that antiques remain preserved. We want them to continue to convey the past in a way that enriches the present. A broken object seldom does that in the same way. As such, every antiques shipment is all about the extra steps. What follows are some tips to help ensure that your objects and their histories arrive intact.

Ahead of Time: Preparing to Ship Antiques 

While packing and shipping a Christmas present or care package yourself is fine, doing the same for an antique or priceless family heirloom is not. This job is best left to the professionals. A knowledgeable antiques shipping company can assess the needs of your item and properly handle it from start to finish.

After taking the first step to hire a reputable packing and shipping company, you should take a look at the different insurance policies the company offers. It’s the claim you never want to file, but part of shipping antiques is also about insuring. You want a solid and well-documented appraisal of the objects before they go. Some companies even offer specialized staff to simplify this process. This tends to mean that your shipper has lots of experience with antique-specific tasks.

 Shipping: Containers and Packing for Antiques

There are some steps that you want to see your shipper make when packing up your piece. The following shortlist can help you identify best practices.

Prepping the Object: Packing antiques is often about securing fragile and moving parts. If your shipper can safely remove any doors, handles, glass panels or other delicate parts, they should. Each item should then be packed separately and clearly labeled.

Shell Materials: Depending on what you are shipping, double wall cardboard boxes may be the best material of choice. Your shipper should insulate your antique with bubble wrap and foamcore pieces within one container and then place that shell within a second layer of cushion and a second box. Other kinds of objects will do better in plastic hard-shell structures, or they’ll require a custom-built wooden crate. Be certain that the shipper you choose can provide these important custom packaging options.

Adhesives: Securing components against independent motion? Antiques shipping experts say “no” when it comes to adhesive tape. The company should use string and ropes instead. Better yet, hold down parts that could be damaged with shrink wrap.

Finally, before your packed antiques go out the door, double check that every crate and box is accurately and very legibly labeled. Be sure that your packing carries the proper precautions: Fragile. Do not load or stack. This side up.

With these steps complete, your antiques are in good shape to arrive intact, and the process will become just another part of their ongoing story – a new chapter with many more to come.

antique stove
-James O’Brien’s work can be found at Mashable, OPEN Forum, Forbes.com, TheAtlantic.com, and elsewhere. He writes about media, finance, business, travel, and tech.

 This article was prepared for Antique and Personal Property Appraisals on behalf of Craters and Freighters.

 

Are Your Prized Possessions Protected?

Insurer USAA posted an article titled “Are Your Prized Possessions Protected?” explaining the basics of homeowners insurance coverage and when valuable personal property insurance might be needed.   Antiques, fine art, silver, jewelry and several additional items can be covered under a specialized policy.   Included in the article is a list of steps to follow to get the most protection:

  • Check your current coverage. Before getting an additional policy, review your homeowners or renters policy and fully understand what the policy covers and what it doesn’t.
  • Update the appraisals. Keep appraisals current (at least every five years), and notify your insurance company if the value changes. Appraisals should be done by a certified professional appraiser with expertise and credentials in the type of item you are insuring.
  • Keep all documentation. Proof of ownership is required when you report a loss, so the more paperwork you have — receipts, appraisals, financing statements, and repair or cleaning bills — the easier it will be if you have to make a claim.
  • Details matter. Provide your insurance company with a full description of each item. For example, if you are insuring a diamond ring, you want to list the cut, clarity, carat, color, number and measurements of the diamonds, and the type of gold — the more detail the better.
  • Do your part. Keep your valuable possessions properly cleaned, maintained and safely stored to avoid damage, loss and theft.

 

An important part of special coverage is to have your valuable items appraised by a qualified appraiser, and updated every 5 years.

Source: USAA website