A fire can be a frightening experience for you and your family, even more so if it occurs in your home. A fire can result in structural damage to your home, as well as financial and emotional distress. It is an emotional time, and you don’t want to have to think about what you need to do next. However, if you act promptly, and reach out to your insurance company, they will have experts to help guide you through the process. Your first priority after a house fire is to make sure all family members (pets included) are safe and accounted for. In some cases, you may need to find temporary housing until it is safe to return to your home.
1. Don’t re-enter your fire-damaged home.You might think it is safe to return home once the fire is extinguished, but you must wait until the fire department gives you the all-clear. The following are numerous potential hazards in a fire-damaged structure; therefore, it is recommended that before entering a fire structure one should wear at least an N-95 safety mask:
- Fumes and particles from smoke and soot
- Mold and water damage
- Structural issues, like a waterlogged ceiling, or a weak floor or ceiling joist system
- Gas leaks
- Electrical hazards in standing water (note: depending on the severity of the fire, the local Fire Department may have pulled the electrical meter and cut off the gas)
2. Call your insurance agent.Most homeowners’ insurance policies cover the cost of a hotel, short-term rental, or food if your home is damaged due to a fire. You’ll also need to begin the claims process to cover home repairs and the replacement of damaged belongings.
3. Reach out to local organizations for extra support.Suppose you don’t have homeowner’s insurance. In that case, other community resources (like programs, charities, or benefits) may be available to assist you after a fire. These additional resources can help fire victims get back on their feet faster. Some of these organizations that can help after a house fire include:
- Salvation Army
- American Red Cross
- Public agencies such as the health department
- Religious organizations
- State or municipal emergency services office