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TMCNet:  Rising from the Ashes: Recovery Meets Resilience

[November 13, 2017]

Rising from the Ashes: Recovery Meets Resilience

Rebuilding from one of the most devastating fires in California's history will be a long, complicated process with questions, concerns, and an overwhelming desire to be back home, in the special place that no hotel or guest bedroom can ever be.

But going back home isn't possible for thousands of families who face the question of whether to go back to their property and rebuild or to permanently relocate. If the decision is to rebuild, should the same house be rebuilt, or should homeowners rebuild differently? Is building a more wildfire-resistant home possible and affordable?

The non-profit Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) urges home and business owners to speak to their insurer about their options. IBHS also offers extensive, free guidance on how to reduce the vulnerability of homes and property to wildfire. The focus of this guidance is on understanding and reducing the vulnerability of the home to wind-blown embers. As is often the case, the wind driven embers during the recent fires were a major factor in the rapid fire spread and ignition of homes, not flames from the wildfire. However, after ember ignition of some homes occurred, other nearby homes likely were ignited from exposure to elevated levels of radiant heat or flames from the ember-ignited homes.

"Homes located in wildfire prone areas that have improved resistance to exposures from wind-blown embers are within reach of any budget," says Steve Quarles, Ph.D., chief scientist for wildfire and durability at IBHS, and a California resident. "Even if your budget is relatively small, there are meaningful steps you can take to protect your existing home or your next home. These steps include modifications to your house and property, always keeping in mind the goal of reducing the vulnerability of your home to wind-blown embers."

Materials, dsign features and the location of the house on the property affect the vulnerability of a home to wildfire, as does the selection and location of vegetation and other landscaping features on the property. Routine maintenance is an important component of both items. It is also important to note that extreme weather, which can include higher temperatures and lower relative humidity, but more importantly the higher wind speeds, will exacerbate wildfire exposures to your home and property. Accordingly, IBHS offers the following guidance to all who live in California and other wildfire-prone areas across the United States and Canada.

About the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)

IBHS' mission is to conduct objective, scientific research to identify and promote effective actions that strengthen homes, businesses and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss.

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