Arizona Risks and Issues

Desert Insurance Solutions has offices in La Quinta, CA and Scottsdale, AZ. From there we provide services to clients all over the country. Below, I’d like to focus on some unique risks facing us in the great state of Arizona.

Arizona has much in common with other parts of the Southwest: comfortable winters, hot summers, plenty of growth and plenty of traffic. There are almost no earthquakes or tornados. The north is part of the Mojave Desert and the south is part of the Sonoran Desert. The surface minerals of sandstone, shale and limestone is soft, but creates a hardened shell when exposed to years of heat. That can cause some problems.

Flooding

You wouldn’t guess it, but Arizona is the number one state for flood damage outside designated flood zones. That means we get flood surprises. The intense monsoon storms come on fast then, because the hardened surface shell fails to absorb the rain, it flows through the washes, irrigation canals and streets looking for trouble.

To manage risk, make sure your gutters are clear and that your grading is set up so water flows away from your home. Appliances, furnaces and electrical panels should be elevated at least a foot. Standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover floods, but optional flood insurance is available.

Sinkholes

When Arizona’s surface minerals are not exposed (i.e. underground), they stay soft and can be dislodged by water over time. When this dislodging occurs under a field, pavement, street or even building, an earth movement void known as a sinkhole can occur. Signs of a potential sinkhole include cracks in buildings or pavement, shifting door jambs or oddly leaning trees. When buying a home, confirm that your inspector looks for these signs.

Sinkholes are considered earth movement which, like earthquake, is not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance. Earthquake insurance is available as optional coverage. If your car happens to run into a sinkhole you are covered on your auto policy if you have collision.

Haboobs

Haboobs are giant dust storms created by thunderstorm cells that occur in the Middle East and American Southwest. The Phoenix area averages three haboobs each summer. They arrive suddenly and can last for up to three hours. Visibility is greatly reduced so if driving you should pull over and close windows and vents. At home seal up the house from dust and avoid windows because haboob winds can carry glass shattering rocks and branches. Your homeowner’s and auto insurance covers losses from damaging haboob winds.

Rock Chips

In Arizona the area adjacent to the highway is typically desert gravel so there are plenty of little rocks waiting to flip up and chip your windshield. Common sense tells us not to follow other vehicles, especially trucks, too closely. Big trucks are required to have mud flaps for a reason, but they fall off all the time. If a vehicle is pulling off the road in front of you, slow down and pass it in the furthest lane possible.

If you get a dinged windshield you need to get it fixed because it will eventually get worse. Windshield repair and replacement is covered under the comprehensive section of your auto policy, but it is subject to your deductible unless you have the “full glass option” which I recommend.

Wrong Way Drivers

Arizona has a dubious distinction of having lots of freeway wrong way drivers. It’s hard to tell if we’re worse than other states, but in 2017 a whopping 740 separate wrong way driving incidents were reported.

This strikes close to home because last summer my daughter Hollie almost collided with a wrong way driver going from her house in Gilbert to work on the I-10 near the 202. She caught the incident on her dash cam and her video was picked up by the Phoenix ABC affiliate:

The only way to protect yourself from a wrong way driver is to stay alert and don’t be distracted. Be careful out there!

Hollie provided a copy of her video to the police which will be key evidence in making an air tight case against the reckless wrong way driver. It occurs to me that these dash cams, which generally cost around $100, can be very valuable. Here are some uses:

  • Provide evidence of exactly how an accident unfolded
  • Report undisciplined or road rage drivers
  • For parents, record exactly how a teenage child uses the car
  • Prevent insurance fraud if someone stages an accident
  • And finally, to record your favorite road trip!

A dash cam is an unconventional, but potentially valuable, form of protection. Think about it!

Conclusion

Ok, now a little perspective. In almost every personal insurance program, the property risk described in this newsletter is important, but not most important. For people with something to lose, your most important risk to insure against is liability (getting sued). It’s essential you have enough quality protection to protect your net worth against lawsuit. As always, call Kaycie or me if you have any questions.

Regarding natural disasters, Arizona is actually low risk compared to other states. My overall opinion about Arizona is that it’s a great place to live or visit. Awesome weather, natural resources, leisure options and friendly, positive people. In fact, I visit my daughters and grandson in Arizona so often, it’s my home away from home!

Make it a great day!