What to do after a fire

Experiencing a house fire is a devastating and traumatic event that no one should ever have to go through. The aftermath can be overwhelming, but it is important to remember that there are steps you can take to begin rebuilding your life after such a tragedy. So, what steps should you take after a fire destroys your house?

Immediately after a fire, safety is your number one priority. Have a medical professional treat any injuries and check with the fire department to ensure that your home is safe to enter before going back in. After a fire, you may find yourself in the position of taking charge of other people. The American Red Cross emphasizes that it’s important to stay calm, listen carefully to what professionals are telling you and “patiently deal with urgent situations first”. 

After everyone is safe, the fire is completely extinguished and professionals have determined that the property is safe to enter, here’s what to do next:

1. Contact Your Insurance Agency: Notify your insurance agent immediately about the fire and initiate the claims process. They will guide you through the necessary paperwork and documentation required to file your claim. Take photographs or videos of the damage as evidence for your insurance provider.

2. Secure Temporary Shelter: If your house is uninhabitable, seek temporary shelter for yourself and your family. Reach out to friends, family, or local organizations that can assist you in finding a safe place to stay. Your insurance policy may also cover additional living expenses during this time.

3. Assess the Damage: Once it is safe to enter your property, carefully assess the extent of the damage. Take note of all the items that have been affected and make a detailed inventory. This will be crucial for your insurance claim and can help you prioritize the restoration process.

4. Salvage What You Can: If possible, salvage any undamaged or partially damaged belongings. However, ensure your safety and consult professionals such as restoration experts or electricians before using any appliances or utilities that may have been exposed to fire or water.

5. Secure the Property: Board up any broken windows or doors to protect your property from further damage or potential looting. Contact your local authorities to inform them that your house is vacant temporarily.

6. Begin Restoration Process: Hire a reputable fire restoration company to assess the damage and develop a plan for restoration. They will help you clean and repair the affected areas, remove soot and smoke odor, and handle any necessary repairs or reconstruction.

7. Notify Important Parties: Inform your mortgage lender, utility companies, and any other relevant parties about the fire and the temporary changes in your living situation. This will help avoid any misunderstandings or disruptions to essential services.

8. Seek Emotional Support: Coping with the aftermath of a devastating fire can be emotionally draining. Reach out to support groups, counselors, or therapists who specialize in trauma and disaster recovery. Surround yourself with loved ones who can provide comfort and understanding during this difficult time.

9. Plan for the Future: As you work through the restoration process, start thinking about your long-term plans. Consider whether you want to rebuild your house or explore other housing options. Consult with professionals such as architects or contractors to determine the best course of action for your situation.

What NOT to Do After a Fire

  1. DO NOT enter your home until you’re given permission that it is safe.
  2. DO NOT turn on gas, water or electric utilities until a professional has deemed them safe.
  3. If your car is burned, DO NOT start to move it.
  4. DO NOT try to clean any of the smoke or soot damage yourself. Leave that to professionals with proper safety equipment and experience.

Click here to download a printable checklist.

Remember, recovering from a house fire takes time and patience. Lean on your support system, stay organized, and take it one step at a time. With determination and resilience, you can rebuild your life and create a new beginning after such a devastating event.

Additional Resources:

Picking Up The Pieces After A Fire from The American Red Cross

After The Fire from FEMA

A little more about Holley Insurance…

Holley Insurance was founded in 2000, and retains a core base of loyal clients. We have locations in Roanoke, Rocky Mount, and Forest, VA. As an independent insurance agency, Holley Insurance represents a carefully selected group of financially strong, reputable insurance companies. Therefore, we are able to offer you the best coverage at the most competitive price. If you’re interested in starting a quote online, click here!

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