The California Department of Insurance announced today that USAA policyholders living in recognized Firewise Communities/USA® sites in California will receive discounts on their homeowners insurance premiums. USAA, which provides a full range of financial products and services to the military community and their families, has been working with the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Wildland Fire Operations Division for several years to investigate the possibility of providing incentives for residents of wildfire-prone areas to take steps to create safer, more fire-adapted communities. NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program provided the community action framework and local data that enabled USAA to offer this new discount to policyholders.
“This is clear recognition from a major insurer and by an insurance regulator that wildfire mitigation by homeowners across a community makes a real difference to prevent future losses,” said Michele Steinberg, NFPA’s wildland fire project manager. “USAA realizes that it’s not just about one house in a neighborhood. When a whole neighborhood or community takes action, everyone can benefit by reducing the threat of a wildfire. Firewise Communities/USA is aimed at community-wide behavior change over time that helps protect lives and property when community members follow the process.”
NFPA launched its voluntary Firewise program in 2002, enlisting the technical assistance of state forestry officials across the nation to reach out to residents and assist in community risk evaluations. Since the start of the program, more than 1,300 communities have enrolled with more than 1,000 currently active across 41 states. As part of the recognition process, residents are asked to come together to address risk findings using a long-term plan and holding annual public events, as well as documenting a minimum amount of investment in wildfire safety actions each year. In California, there are currently 76 active Firewise communities. In 2013, these participating California communities invested more than $5 million in Firewise actions.
“Firewise is creating a ‘new normal’ for residents where they see the value in clean-up days, home maintenance, thinning out brush and trees, and other activities that reduce wildfire risks,” adds Steinberg. “NFPA is extremely pleased that Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has approved USAA’s filing for this discount. It is nice to see that all of the great work residents are doing to stay safer in California is being recognized in this way.”