Emergencies & Insurance at Montecito Association

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   July 19, 2022

At this month’s Montecito Association board meeting, Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor thanked attendees of the Fire District’s emergency preparation meeting, which took place last week at Westmont College. 

The meeting had various presenters, including Wildland Fire Specialist and Fire Behavior Analyst Nic Elmquist, who reported that 90% of the western United States is in some sort of drought, and Montecito is in an abnormally dry period. Lack of rain and low fuel moisture levels have created an increased risk of fire. “Every year it’s important to be prepared, but this year especially,” Elmquist said at the meeting. 

Reps from the Montecito Fire Protection District reiterated the District’s Ready! Set! Go! framework for emergency preparedness, which includes preparing your home and property by being mindful of roof materials, clearing rain gutters, having dual-paned windows and non-combustible fencing, removing combustible items on patios and decks, and ensuring that patios, chimneys, garages, and driveways are all fire safe. It’s important to create defensible space around homes by removing dead vegetation, eliminating pathways for a wildfire to burn directly to your home, and utilize hardscaping. 

Experts recommend evaluating your emergency evacuation plan and evacuating early with the “6 P’s of Evacuation.” They include people, pets, papers, prescriptions (including contacts and eyeglasses), pictures (irreplaceable), and personal computers. Residents should be “Ready” during elevated fire risk by monitoring the weather, planning on how to get out and where you will go, and preparing and protecting your home. “Set!” is during an evacuation warning, when residents should prepare to leave, by having a full gas tank, loading up important documents, and leaving early. “Go” is when there is an evacuation order, and you must leave immediately. 

Santa Barbara County utilizes multiple alerting tools, including ReadySBC alerts, which must be registered for in advance. These alerts are issued by address and targeted to your specific geographic area. WEA alerts are automatic and do not require registration. There are also Emergency Alerts via radio and television, and door-to-door alerts during an emergency if first responders are able. Montecito Fire has a number of online resources including their website (montecitofire.com) and social media channels. 

On July 21 at 11 am, ReadySBC will conduct a test alert for Montecito. Only residents in the fire boundary service area that are signed up will get this alert, and all residents are highly encouraged to sign up online at ReadySBC.org. The purpose of the test is to update contact information for all Montecito residents and verify that opted-in community members receive ReadySBC Alerts without issue. You can opt in for text messages, reverse calls to cell phones and landlines, emails, and TTY/TDD for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. 

Upon receiving the test alert on July 21, community members will be prompted to confirm receipt of the message. For example, those who receive a text message will be asked to reply “YES” to confirm receipt. No emergency action is required.

A call center will be staffed at Montecito Fire Station on July 21 to field calls from community members with questions or issues relating to the test alert. To reach the call center, dial the non-emergency business line at (805) 969-7762.

 For questions, please contact Christina Favuzzi, Public Information Officer at cfavuzzi@montecitofire.com.

On Thursday, July 14, a completed Evacuation Study will be available on the Montecito Fire District’s website, with the study being presented to the MFPD Board on Friday, July 22, at 2 pm. We’ll have much more on the study later this month. 

The Montecito Association hosted Zuleimy Delgadillo, an Outreach Analyst for the Department of Insurance for the State of California, to give an update on what Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is aiming to do to help high-fire communities like Montecito. Since January 2019, residents have seen hundreds of non-renewals or exorbitant premiums in Montecito.

Delgadillo said commissioners are working on removing barriers to allow wildfire survivors to receive critical insurance benefits including coverage for evacuation expenses and extension to additional living expenses, and have created disclosures and coverage to meet upgraded building codes. There are also proposed regulations to lower costs and increase transparency for consumers, including requiring that insurance companies provide consumers with their wildfire risk score, and give them an opportunity to appeal their risk determination. 

Lara has also overseen improvements to the FAIR Plan (the insurer of last resort), ordering increased coverage limits. Dwelling coverage went from $1.5M to $3M. Lisa Blackwell from Brown & Brown Insurance reported that many carriers are leaving the Montecito market, but that there are other companies coming in and writing policies. “It is extremely difficult in some areas to place coverage. We are seeing costs become cost prohibitive,” she said, adding that she does not recommend insuring worth much more than $3M with the FAIR Plan. She said there are options for more comprehensive coverage, and that residents should speak to their insurance agent. 

For more information, visit insurance.ca.gov. The Montecito Association continues to discuss this issue and working with Commissioner Lara to provide better opportunities for insurance coverage. 

During Community Reports, Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Lieutenant Butch Arnoldi reported crime stats for Montecito in the last month. They include residential burglaries on Park Lane, East Mountain Drive, and Picacho Lane; open fires on the beach below the cemetery; narcotics arrest on Coast Village Road; burglary at Sandpiper Liquor in Summerland; a high-profile break-in involving a celebrity and a stalker; a DUI on Chelham Way; mental health issues on Eucalyptus Lane; and a missing person from Carpinteria found injured on East Mountain Drive.

The next Montecito Association Board Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 9, when Caltrans reps are expected to release new information about the two roundabouts being built in Montecito. 

For more information, visit montecitoassociation.org


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