Firewise in Flagstaff: Insurance Insights from State Farm's Richard Sanchez

fire danger sign in northern arizona

Clear Sky Professionals team speaks with State Farm's Richard Sanchez about Home Insurance, Fire Risk, and living in beatuiful Flagstaff, Arizona.

Richard, thanks taking the time to speak with our team. To start off, can you explain how fire risk can impact home insurance premiums for homeowners in Northern Arizona?

Flagstaff is surrounded by the largest Ponderosa Forest in the world so, naturally, the combination of our region's dry climate and dense tree growth make it particularly susceptible to wildfires. Insurance companies assess this risk by looking at historical fire data, local fire mitigation efforts, and proximity to fire-prone areas. Homeowners in high-risk areas often see elevated premiums to account for this increased risk.

What impact do natural disasters like wildfires have on the overall insurance market?

Natural disasters significantly impact the insurance market by increasing the volume and cost of claims. When a major event occurs, insurance companies face substantial payouts, which can affect their financial stability. This can lead to higher premiums for policyholders as insurers adjust their pricing models to account for the increased risk.

How is this increase in premium determined?

Three factors affect your home insurance premium: the cost of materials to rebuild, the cost of labor to rebuild, and the individual risk profile of a home. If material costs are high or labor is expensive, the insurance company needs to set higher premiums to cover potential claims. Homes with higher risk profiles, considering factors such as a property’s Risk Index Score or previous Claims History, can also have a higher premium because they are more likely to require a claim in the future.

I know some Flagstaff residents have seen some insurance carriers dropping coverage in their neighborhoods. What do you recommend a homeowner do in this situation?

Insurance is fundamentally about managing risk. When the risk becomes too high, some carriers may decide that it’s no longer financially viable to offer coverage in certain areas. Larger companies, such as StateFarm, which I represent, have higher reserves to allow for higher risk tolerance. Staying informed about your coverage options, working with a knowledgeable agent, and taking steps to mitigate risk can help. It’s also wise to regularly review your policy and consider additional coverage, like flood insurance, to ensure comprehensive protection.

Can you explain how fires can lead to flooding and the importance of flood insurance?

After a wildfire, the landscape is severely compromised. The vegetation that normally absorbs rainwater is destroyed, leaving the soil exposed and unable to retain water. This can result in flash flooding after heavy rain, as was seen in Flagstaff in 2022 after the Tunnel, Haywire, and Pipeline Fires.

Standard homeowners insurance policies will not cover flood damage, and will only cover sudden and accidental water damage from an interior source, such as a burst pipe. Flood insurance is a separate policy and should be obtained by homes in wildfire-affected areas that need additional flood coverage to protect against damage caused by water that originates from outside the home, like a flash flood due to heavy rain.

StateFarm’s flood insurance coverage is insured through FEMA  because it’s backed by the federal government and provides reliable coverage, especially in the aftermath of natural disasters. Private flood insurance can be more variable and might not offer the same level of stability and support during widespread events. And remember, every flood policy needs to be renewed annually.

How can homeowners determine their risk for fire and flood, and what resources does StateFarm provide to assist with this?

Homeowners can determine their risk by researching their area's fire and flood history. As a local insurance agent living and working in this community, I can provide risk assessment tools that can give you a personalized analysis of your home and provide recommendations for safeguarding your investments.

How do you advise homeowners to balance coverage needs and budget constraints when selecting insurance policies?

Insurance is one of those things that aren’t tangible, so some people have a hard time determining their risk threshold. I always recommend homeowners to start by assessing their most significant risks and prioritizing coverage for those areas. Working with an insurance agent can help identify essential coverage options and any potential discounts.

What sets you apart from other Insurance Agents in Flagstaff?

My customer service. Everything that we’re talking about today, I’ve dealt with for my own home. I’m familiar with the situation and can help my clients navigate any coverage challenges and find the right policy that fits their needs.

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For more information, visit richardsanchez.net or stop by his office, located at 1515 E Cedar Ave., Ste A-4 in Flagstaff, AZ.

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