According to the Red Cross, 80% of Americans don’t realize that home fires are the single most common disaster in the United States. House fires cause damage throughout the whole house. Even in rooms that were never engulfed in flames, the high heat can melt plastic, cause your paint to blister, cause severe stress to your glass windows, and more. Appliances, equipment, and personal belongings that are still standing are likely ruined beyond repair.
After you have suffered from a house fire, there are so many different things you are dealing with that it’s hard to know what to do next. Are there things you need to do for insurance? Is it safe once the fire has been put out? Will you ever get any of your belongings back after the restoration process?
It’s perfectly normal to be confused and uncertain about where to turn or what to do. These seven steps will help you get started on the road to recovery…there is life after a house fire.
7 Things to Do After a House Fire
1. Check With Your Family
This may seem obvious, but in the moment it’s easy to be overwhelmed and confused, forgetting to do even the most basic things. If you weren’t alone when the fire happened, gather together and make sure everyone is ok. Depending on the size of the fire and the age of those involved, it can be very traumatic.
Then take a moment and contact any family members that may not have been with you. Let them know what happened and the status of any other friends and family that are with you. If none of your family members are local, call a close friend. You will want to have some help as you begin the fire restoration process.
2. Call Your Insurance Agent
After a house fire, don’t assume that someone else is going to contact your homeowners insurance company. This is the first thing that you need to do after you have contacted your family. This will start the process of event documentation and initiate your insurance claim.
From there your insurance agent should be experienced in dealing with property emergencies and can talk you through things like emergency lodging and living expenses. They will also get you in touch with restoration companies that can do fire damage restoration and smoke odor removal.
The best restoration companies like Jenkins Restorations will work directly with your insurance company to handle the fire damage cleanup.
Be clear on who is going to pay for different pieces of the restoration process. Make sure you have physical, written copies of every agreement.
3. Figure Out If Your Home is Salvageable
Have you ever wondered, “How hot is a house fire?” According to Ready.gov, the average temperature of a house fire gets between 100 degrees at the floor level and 600 degrees at eye level! That’s hot enough to scorch your lungs if you inhale it! That sort of heat can cause structural damage to your home, and leave lingering issues. Your insurance company will most likely send out an adjuster to evaluate the fire damage to your home. They will decide if your home can be saved, or if it must be demolished and rebuilt.
If your house has been damaged rather than destroyed in the fire, it will need professional fire damage cleanup. Not only will direct damage from the fire need to be repaired or replaced, but heat, smoke, and soot can cause damage to your home and your possessions. On top of that, you may now actually require water mitigation to prevent or reduce the amount of water damage that happens after the firefighters put the fire out!
Fire damage to your property often goes beyond what the eye can see. Professionals like Jenkins Restorations have IICRC certified Fire and Smoke Restoration Technicians who know exactly where to start.
4. Make Sure It’s Safe Before Re-entering Your House
Do not enter a house or other building that has been affected by a fire until the fire department has made sure that it’s safe to enter your home. Fires can start again even if they appear to be out and there is almost always hidden damage. Roofs and floors may be damaged and could fall down when you’re inside.
When you can re-enter your home, make sure that you focus on retrieving valuables and important paperwork such as birth certificates, medical records, and passports. Do not bring food or cosmetic items with you, the presence of high heat or smoke in these items can cause you harm. Only bring out prescription medications so that you can get replacements. Don’t take medicines from a burned house.
5. Organize Your Possessions
Separating your damaged possessions from your undamaged ones will make it easier for you to make a list of damaged items for your insurance company. Having a list of all of your personal belongings is very helpful in this situation. These lists often contain receipts and bank statements of purchased items. Providing photos along with the list would help greatly when filing the claim.
6. Save Undamaged Possessions
Either you or the restoration company needs to sort through your possessions. In many situations, there will be salvageable items in the wreckage, particularly if you saved certain items or documents in a fire-proof box. Any items that are not damaged or destroyed should be put in a safe place, even if it means putting them in storage.
You will find that things the fire did not burn up may be ruined by smoke, soot, or the water used to put out the flames. Anything you want to save will need to be carefully and potentially professionally cleaned.
7. Find Somewhere to Stay During the Fire Damage Restoration Process
Most homeowner’s policies will pay for the food, clothing, and shelter that you and your family may need for a specified period of time. You may want to contact local disaster relief like the American Red Cross, your church, or family and friends who can help you find a safe place to stay while restoration services are in progress.