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US homeowners received new leadership to help protect them from the ever-increasing wildfires and rising insurance premiums associated with them.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, a research nonprofit funded by insurers, has announced the development of the world’s first standard that can significantly reduce the risk of wildfire damage to a home. To earn House prepared for wildfire Designation, homeowners must meet a number of criteria, including, for example, clearing anything flammable, such as bushes, within five feet of their homes, and undergoing an annual inspection.

The guide will be especially helpful to homeowners in the western US that have been affected by wildfires. The city of Paradise in California, 90% of which was swept away by the infamous 2018 hell, immediately announced that all new construction must meet these standards.

“This is a critical part of our redevelopment,” said Kevin Phillips, Paradise city manager. “We are doing everything we can to show insurance companies that we are reducing risk and that we are a community that you will come back to and invest in.”

The state of California already has strict building codes for new construction in areas known to be prone to fires, but many homes are older than those standards and therefore do not meet them. The steps to meet the IBHS are even more difficult.

For years, IBHS has been conducting research for the insurance industry on how to protect homes and businesses from fire, including by building test houses and setting them on fire in its lab. But Roy Wright, the institute’s chief executive, said that in recent years, homeowners in the west have also become hungry for this information.

“The catastrophic events in California in 2017 and 2018 changed that fire insurance conversation,” he said. “Suddenly climate change
comes through the front door, these California families, they want to know what they can do.”

The IBHS said the designation is based on the latest science and includes a list of specific steps proven to reduce fire risk, such as incorporating and adding fine mesh covers to attic vents or outdoor decks to prevent the spread of embers and replacing old cedar roofs. non-combustible tiles.

Widespread adoption of such standards would also be welcomed by the insurance industry. According to Milliman Inc, a risk assessment firm that works with insurers to push for stricter building codes on fires, the industry lost 25 years of underwriting profits after the disastrous fire seasons of 2017 and 2018. It also raises rates in fire-prone areas and, in some cases, shuts down operations entirely.

While there is currently no guarantee that compliance with the IBHS standard will result in lower insurance rates, the new California Insurance Bureau draft rules include language indicating that insurance companies will be required to provide discounts to homes that meet the standard.

Achieving higher fire safety standards can be costly and difficult, especially for older homes, but Phillips said for cities like Paradise, where insurance premiums can now top $6,000 a year, this is the only way forward. “Even if it’s a little more expensive,” he said, “the long-term benefit will help make it the most affordable.”

A photo: Firefighters attempt to protect a home near Santa Claus Drive during the Kaldor Fire near Meyers, Calif., August 31, 2021 / Bloomberg.

Copyright 2022 Bloomberg.

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