Every year, almost 400,000 families will experience a fire in their house that could result in everything from damages and injuries to a total loss of their home.
None of us want to think about what to do after a house fire, but having clear steps forward can help you rebuild the life you've lost more quickly.
Today, we've put together a list of the advice from experts to help you pick up the pieces and move on after a house fire.
1. Alert the Important People
First, call your family. House fires are frequently a topic for news stories, and you don't want people needlessly worried if they see your house on the nightly news.
Social media offers a quick and easy way to alert many people at once and answer questions in one place, as opposed to receiving and making hundreds of phone calls. Plus, a little extra support and generosity during a time of loss make it just a little easier to move forward with hope.
2. Call Your Homeowner's Insurance
Before you do anything else, immediately contact your homeowner's insurance agent. Besides alerting your family, this should be your first step for several reasons.
- It initiates your claim, starting the documentation process.
- If you need emergency lodging and living expenses, they may be covered through your homeowner's policy.
- You'll receive clear steps from your insurance provider on how to proceed.
3. Be Clear on the Situation
Before you move forward, make sure you fully understand the situation.
Is the home a total loss or just partially damaged? After talking to your insurance provider, you should have a clearer picture of what you're looking at.
If the home is only partially damaged, you'll need to learn what the cleanup requirements are so you can legally and safely repair your home.
If the home is a loss, make sure you understand what will be required to tear out the old structure and build a new home.
Check out our fire extinguisher comparison chart!
4. Ask Before Reentering Your Home
Don't assume that you're allowed back into your home until it's been cleared by professionals. Fires can reignite even if they appear to be completely out, and structural damage will leave weak spots in the construction.
Even if the fire appears to be extinguished and you think it's safe, ask before entering. A roof or floor can collapse and cause injury or death. In some cases, it may not be possible to safely reenter your home.
5. Organize and Photograph
Once you're allowed to enter your home, assess the damages. Separate damaged property from undamaged items.
As you organize, make a detailed list of what you've lost in the fire. Take photographs for evidence and compile receipts and bank statements for the items you've listed.
This is an important step for most insurance claims and helps to ensure you'll receive the full amount of compensation allowed by your insurance.
6. Take Care of Undamaged Items
Save whatever undamaged property you can and move it to a safe storage location. Keep in mind that many items, while not burned, will be ruined from smoke damage or the chemicals and water the firefighters used.
Professional cleaners can sometimes help restore items that have sentimental value, but you might find that even if a fire didn't destroy the whole structure, there won't be much left inside untouched.
7. Find a Place to Stay
Many homeowner's policies include coverage for food, clothing, and housing for a specified period while you rebuild. If it doesn't, you might qualify for disaster relief through organizations like the American Red Cross.
If you have family or friends nearby, you might feel more comfortable with these familiar faces around you. Knowing the extent of the damage and how long you'll be without a house can help you make the best decision for a short or long term living situation.
What To Do After a House Fire
Picking up the pieces won't be easy - you have a home to rebuild and a life that will be on hold in many ways. But knowing what to do after a house fire and having clear steps to complete helps.
Lean on family and friends, get plenty of rest, and utilize programs that are in place specifically for times like these.
Here at Quora, we might not be able to help you replace what you've lost, but we can help you protect what you're rebuilding. When life has returned to normal and the fire is just a memory, contact us and let us walk you through making your new home fireproof.