After a house fire is put out, the smoke has cleared, the fire department is gone, you are left with a disaster on your hands. In the aftermath of a fire–no matter how big or small–it’s imperative to know what to do and what to avoid doing.
In the first few hours and days after a fire, your home will likely suffer from extensive fire and smoke damage, as well as water damage. During this time, it’s best to hire a professional restoration company to thoroughly handle the restoration process. You certainly don’t want to cause further damage or worsen the already-devastating situation! PuroClean can assist with restoring salvageable damaged possessions and getting your property back to pre-loss condition.
While we want you to leave the restoration services to us, there are some things you can do right away following a house fire. This blog offers a house fire checklist with suggestions for what to attempt immediately after a fire and what to avoid.
5 Things To Do After a House Fire
Contact your insurance company or insurance agent immediately by telephone, in writing, or in-person to report the loss and begin the claim process. Make sure that you have all pertinent information about the date and time of the fire, location, cause (if known), amount of damage done to your home and/or its contents, plus any other factors related to your claim. A lot of this information is included in the fire report. You can obtain a copy from your local fire department. Keep in mind that this fire report may not be available due to specific fire causes or state regulations.
Taking pictures is a must! After a house fire, most people are so overwhelmed with the situation, and the loss, they may forget to photograph everything right away before there’s further damage or items are removed. As soon as it’s safe to do so, take as many pictures of the damaged property as possible.
Fill out your insurance claim form completely, but don’t sign it until all information on the form is correct. Also, be sure to attach supporting documents listed in the policy (examples: receipts for temporary housing costs; contractor estimates plus proof of payment). Your insurance company will not make full payment until all required documentation has been submitted.
If you have received an estimate from your insurance agent or claims adjuster, do not accept it as final unless it is satisfactory to you. Most policies require that you approve any payment due before it can be made by the insurance carrier.
As soon as possible after the home fire, you will need to find somewhere to stay during the recovery process. For additional living expenses, ask your agent about vouchers that you can give to your hotel or motel and the time period for reimbursement.
Many states have provisions for financial assistance to individuals as a result of a catastrophe. Local disaster relief services may be able to help after the fire. Check with your local disaster relief agency or American Red Cross to learn more. Under certain conditions, the federal government provides financial assistance to individuals who have suffered a loss due to catastrophe.
A house fire can be devastating and feel overwhelming.
5 Things NOT To Do After a Fire
Don’t remain in your home if it is dangerous to do so! There are many factors to consider after a house fire that could make your home dangerous. For example, electricity could be live, the house may be unstable due to structural damage, the building exterior might be at risk of collapse, or there may be asbestos contamination (ask your insurance agent for advice). Don’t go back into your house for any reason–even to get pets or personal items–until you have contacted your insurance company and/or agent. This is extremely important–a lot of damage can occur between the time you leave and when you return to see what’s left.
Do not throw away anything. Clothing, bedding, carpets, or other household goods should be examined by an expert. You might be surprised that some items retain their value after they’ve been salvaged and restored! Your professional restoration company can help you make this determination. It’s also important not to throw anything away without consulting with your adjuster. You might be tossing away something that’s needed to prove your claim, such as photos and receipts. The adjuster may take your word for certain items (furniture, appliances, etc.) but will probably want to see invoices or receipts for the cost of others.
Do not repair or replace anything until you have written permission from your homeowners’ insurance company. Your insurance company should already be familiar with the extent of damage to your home, but it’s important that they authorize any repairs before you begin work. Otherwise, you may end up paying for something twice–and even if you don’t, your insurer could later deny payment for restoration services.
Don’t cancel utility service. If it’s possible to use them while repairs are being done, be sure you’re current on all bills and that no deposits are required before service is restored (or understand if you must pay extra.) To prevent contamination caused by sewer gases, keep drains closed with plumber’s tape, or a similar adhesive product available at local hardware stores.
Do not give up hope! With the right help, it is still possible to repair damage from a fire and come back stronger than ever.