What to do after a house fire
These steps can help you and your family recover after a house fire.
After suffering a house fire, it might be difficult to determine what to do next. These steps will help you get back on your feet:
- Find a safe place to stay. No matter the amount of damage, you likely can't stay in your own home. If staying with friends or family isn't an option, talk to your local disaster relief agency, such as the American Red Cross or Salvation Army. These organizations will help you find a safe place to stay temporarily.
- Contact your insurance agent. You'll need to start a claim and address your immediate needs. "Loss of use" funds from your insurance policy may cover living and other daily expenses. If you receive these funds or an advance on your claim, save all receipts and keep a detailed record of all purchases. Your insurance agent should also be able to help you secure your property and offer recommendations for cleaning up or restoring salvageable items.
- Protect your home. Even though your home is damaged and you may not be able to stay there, as the owner you still need to protect it as much as possible from both weather and unlawful entry.
- Take care of your pets. Always have your pets checked by a veterinarian after a fire. Your pets' lungs can be damaged by smoke and burns can hide under fur.
- Get a copy of the fire report. You can usually get fire reports from your local fire department. The report may be helpful in providing information for your insurance agency.
- Address your finances. You'll still need to make mortgage payments — even if your home is destroyed. You'll also need to continue any car payments and replace any credit or debit cards that may have been destroyed in the house fire.
- Recover your possessions. Items destroyed in a house fire are usually covered by insurance. Typically, the homeowners policy is a replacement-cost policy. When that's the case, and a loss occurs, you will receive the actual cash value of your damaged items at the time of settlement and may recover the replacement cost once the items have been replaced. To help make sure everything is accounted for, keep a home inventory of your possessions. This inventory should include the date of purchase, cost at purchase and description of each item, wherever possible.
- Take care of your family's mental health. Disasters can make it difficult to cope. This is particularly true of children. Be patient with yourself as you work through any stress caused by the fire. If you or others in your family are having difficulty coping, seek support.
Before you find yourself dealing with a loss, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with your insurance policy and its coverages. Reviewing it can help you understand ahead of time what will be taken care of if a loss occurs — and what your responsibilities are.