A little bit of history…
In 1666, the Great Fire of London was responsible for the destruction of over 13,000 homes and 87 churches. This massive blaze also caused the displacement of over 70,000 residents. Since the death of the poor was not well documented at this time, the fate of an unknown number of individuals remains uncertain. And while it was mostly poverty stricken residents who were affected by the fire itself, the disaster had some major fall out that affected the entire country economically. After the fire, the number of homeless people climbed exponentially, businesses lost both workers and customers, and disputes arose over whose responsibility it was to pay for damages and rebuilding.
It wasn’t until 1732 that an insurance company in the United States issued a fire insurance policy—and it still didn’t really catch on. Benjamin Franklin was a huge proponent of fire insurance and, in 1752 he created Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire, a company that refused to offer fire insurance to owners of buildings that were high risk. Unfortunately, that included wooden houses, which left a huge portion of the population—those with the most risk and who actually needed the insurance—without protection.
Things changed in the 1820s when Aetna Fire Insurance Co. wrote fire insurance policies by area rather than construction type, and spread their risk out by limiting the number of policies they wrote and making sure they wrote them for both high and low risk properties. This followed the more modern form of underwriting that is still in use today.
STEPS TO COMPLETING A FIRE ASSESSMENT
- Identify the fire hazards
- Identify people at risk
- Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect against fire risk
- Record, plan, instruct, inform and train
- Regularly review the fire risk assessment