Preparing for Wildfires Using a Cell Phone

Documenting your home and belongings

Whether your home is at risk or you’re miles away from the fires, there are things your family should be doing now in case of an evacuation.

Once the fires reach your door, the only thing you can do is escape. But what about your belongings?  What about your home?  How can you prepare to rebuild?

You need to make a record now of your personal belongings, you need proof of what you own and where you lived.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said you can prepare by grabbing your phone or video camera.

"And go through your house and video your personal possessions, major architectural features, the elements of your home and then store that in the cloud or email it to yourself," said Jones. 

The Insurance Commissioner says one of the biggest roadblocks for fire victims is documentation to hand over to their insurance company. 

"Often times without that there can be disputes about what you had and how much it's worth," said Jones. "Having that home inventory can make a big difference."

Walt Waggener has used his phone to record his entire home. He is both an insurance agent and a wildfire survivor. He knows how people can struggle to remember everything they owned after the fire destroyed their home.

"I would do every room. I would go out in the garage and open those drawers and cabinets that I haven't looked at in years," said Waggener.

Insurance experts say that is the kind of proof you need for your insurance company to pay off your claim. Make the video with your phone, save it on the cloud or transfer it to a portable drive and store it somewhere away from your home.

Waggener says evidence like that can make a huge difference.

"People who do something like this are typically going to get between 25 percent and 30 percent more (money) than those who don't. Principally, because they remember what they have," said Waggener.

In this case, a few pictures can be worth thousands of dollars. Insurance experts also say it’s important to keep any paperwork, receipts or appraisals you may have for high ticket items. That information could also come in hand when working with your insurance company.     

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