This of course is when you will need to actively engage with your insurer or its representative. Contact your insurance agent, if you have one. If you don’t, or if they’re hard to reach due to claims volume, Google your insurer’s name and “wildfire claims,” since some companies have established special links or phone numbers for wildfire claims. You can also check whether your insurer has dispatched any mobile claim centers to your area, which in previous wildfires have provided face-to-face service in affected areas to customers of companies including The Hartford, Farmer’s, and Allstate.
You can also reach free advocacy through a national non-profit consumer group known as United Policyholders (UP)
. Its mission, it says, is “to be a trustworthy and useful information resource and a respected voice for consumers of all types of insurance in all 50 states.” Its services include help in navigating claims and helping you to “fight for your rights,” and its website includes a useful 2020 guide to wildfire insurance help
The Insurance Information Institute has its own comprehensive page
on how to file a wildfires claim in California. It includes advice to file claims as quickly as possible, which is wise given the significant delays in processing claims in some past disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Counseling for trauma
Wildfires bring particular emotional and psychological stress that can hamper your ability to take steps such as filing and managing insurance claims. That trauma stems in part from unpredictability, according to the American Psychological Association, which points out that “wildfires can be particularly stressful because the factors that influence their strength and direction can change at any moment.”
As a result, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “feelings such as overwhelming anxiety, constant worrying, trouble sleeping, and other depression-like symptoms are common responses before, during, and after wildfires.” The department maintains a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, multilingual Disaster Distress Hotline
at 1-800-985-5990 to provide “immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.”