Janani Ramachandran Leads Discussion on Wildfire Insurance Challenges in California

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Janani Ramachandran, representing District 4 in Oakland, organized a virtual town hall, collaborating with the California Department of Insurance and the Oakland Firesafe Council to discuss insurance issues and wildfire prevention measures.

Janani Ramachandran Leads Discussion on Wildfire Insurance
Janani Ramachandran Leads Discussion on Wildfire Insurance ( Photo: LinkedIn )

City Councilmember Janani Ramachandran has taken proactive steps to address the pressing insurance dilemma

Residents in fire-prone areas like Montclair, Merriewood, and Piedmont Pines, located in Districts 1 and 4, face the escalating danger of wildfires, exacerbated by rising temperatures and reduced humidity. Janani Ramachandran met with Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara after constituents reported canceled home insurance policies, prompting the town hall meeting.

While acknowledging the challenges, Mary Beth Bykowsky, a state Department of Insurance outreach analyst, emphasized that they cannot compel insurers to write policies but recommended using the department’s insurance finder tool to locate companies willing to cover high-risk areas. Seeking out companies from other regions may also be a viable option.

In 2022, the agency implemented a regulation named “Safer from Wildfires,” encouraging insurers to offer discounts to policyholders who undertake risk-reduction measures such as upgrading windows, vegetation clearance, and participation in local fire-prevention initiatives. Customers now have access to their “wildfire risk score” and the ability to appeal it.

One avenue to secure discounts and enhance safety is the establishment of Firewise USA sites. These sites involve households collaborating to assess their collective fire risk and create mitigation plans over three years. While California boasts around 700 such sites, Oakland has only two, a number that falls significantly short compared to neighboring areas like Berkeley and Marin County.

The Oakland Firesafe Council, operational since 2014, offers resources and programs to reduce wildfire risk and advocates for policies to bolster the city’s resilience against worsening fire seasons

Doug Mosher, a Firesafe Council board member, called for evacuation drills and modernization of the city’s siren warning system. He stressed the importance of residents taking the initiative to protect their homes and lives in the face of the growing wildfire threat.

Residents can also register for AC Alerts, a county-wide notification system for emergencies. Additionally, the Firesafe Council is championing a regional agreement between government agencies in fire-prone regions of Alameda County and West Contra Costa County to pool resources and expertise in fire prevention. The Oakland City Council has shown support for this regional initiative, emphasizing the need for collective action.

Janani Ramachandran noted that Oakland’s inter-departmental working group is developing a vegetation management plan to enhance the city’s preparedness.

Bykowsky concluded that in these challenging times, individual homeowners must take measures to protect their homes and improve their chances of securing insurance coverage.

 

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