Tips for Disaster Survivors

It's been twenty years in the making and taken a year of concentrated effort, but now we're proud to present Disaster Recovery: A Survivor's Guide to Insurance. Writing a book is something we've always wanted to do so when the opportunity presented itself to us, we jumped on it.

We’d like to thank the San Diego Foundation for major funding in support of this project, as well as the generous individuals [yes, that would be you] whose donations to CARe funded the balance of the project. We’d also like to extend our appreciation to the volunteers who took time from their busy schedules to do an initial draft review of this guide.

We cannot forget to acknowledge the County of San Diego, The Regional Community Recovery Team of San Diego, which we were able to participate in after the 2003 and 2007 firestorms in San Diego, and the CRT for their support. Last, but certainly not least, we would like to thank Deena Raver for helping to initiate support for this project.

Besides the 100+ pages of information, illustrations and task lists, you can read some never before published background information on how CARe came to be.

The download will be available for free, but we are currently also working on a published book version that should be available soon. To read the book for yourself, click HERE! Please also feel free to forward the link to people you know who are in need.

With the two year anniversary coming up for Station Fire survivors, we would like to remind them of the two year deadline to replace property that was extended to them due to California laws regarding State Declared Disasters.

According to California Insurance Code § 2051.5, when the insurance company must only pay the policyholder the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of your property when the claim is made, the policyholder has two years (instead of one) to claim the actual cost to replace the item (often referred to as Replacement Cost Value or RCV) once the item has been replaced.

For example, say you had a couch that you estimated would cost $2,000 to replace, but the insurance company only gave you $1,250 as the ACV. Once you actually replaced the couch, you found the actual RCV was $2,145.35 and you have a receipt for the item at that cost. If you have a replacement cost policy, the $895.35 difference can be recovered from the insurance company if your claim was not closed by legal negotiations and you have not yet reached the limits for the coverage in question (which in the example is the personal property coverage). Send copies of your receipts to the insurance company documenting the difference and request a check for the held back depreciation.

You should be aware that the deadline isn’t two years from the date of the loss, but the law specifically states two years “from the date that the first payment toward the actual cash value is made.” Now would be the time to get out copies of the first checks they paid for each coverage so you can properly calculate your deadline.

If there are items that will still need to claim after the two year deadline, you can write a letter requesting an extension. The law states, “Nothing in this section shall prohibit the insurer from allowing the insured additional time to collect the full replacement cost.”

Sample Letter

Thank you for assisting us in returning to normal following our loss.

We are making claim for full replacement cost value under the [personal property, dwelling and other structures, if available] coverage of our policy within two years of our loss. Our loss occurred [DATE] and your first check was dated [DATE].

We intend to completely repair, rebuild or replace our lost personal property and dwelling. Please extend these policy requirements an additional year. Please let us know, in writing, within 15 calendar days.


Important new insurance regulations were approved and effective, June 27, 2011, that, if they survive an appeal from the insurance industry, can help all homeowners from the threat of underinsurance after a catastrophic loss. Since 99 out of 100 fires are not natural disaster (wildfire) fires, these regulations should go a long way to help individual families who have had significant fire damage losses as well as those who lose their home during a disaster.

To see the new insurance regulations, visit:

To see what a major insurance company litigation firm has to say about the new laws, visit:

Inspirational Quotes

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Helen Keller


Thank you for all the caring and sharing - your information has been very helpful.

Slide Fire Survivor, 2007