There are few events more traumatic in someone’s life than a house fire. Even if you’re lucky and none of your loved ones end up injured, you get to see your house and belongings go up in flames. Everything you worked so hard for – gone, and you’re left to pick up the pieces.
This is the sad reality for thousands of Americans each year. In fact, there were 379,600 residential fires in 2018 alone. However, not all hope is lost. If you act fast and take the right steps, you can minimize your losses and be on your way to a speedy recovery.
What To Do Immediately After A Fire
I know it seems like a no brainer, but shock is one hell of a drug and you’d be surprised how little sense people make after a life-threatening situation. So, call 911, even if no one is injured. You could have sustained injuries you can’t feel because of the adrenaline and the authorities need to take care of the fire. You might be tempted to rush in as soon as the fire is out and try to salvage your belongings. However, most homes that have been fire damaged are not structurally sound and you could end un being crushed by debris.
After a fire, be sure to:
- Call Emergency Services.
- Wait until it is safe to enter.
- Let your loved ones know you’re safe.
- Contact your insurance provider
- Document everything
- Be sure to show investigator all damage
- Get multiple estimates
What if I have nowhere to go?
If you find yourself a victim of a house fire and staying with friends and/or family is not an option, there is help available. There are several nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to provide assistance to fire victims.
The Red Cross is the most well-known of these and will provide support for fire victims all over the US. They will make sure you have clothes, food, and shelter and may even assign you a caseworker to follow up and help you get your life back together. Most Fire Departments will contact them on your behalf, but if they don’t, you can call them yourself.
How does insurance work after a fire? – 7 Steps
Once your health and accommodations are taken care of, you need to get started on your insurance claim. The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll get a payout and be on your way to recovery. The actual amount you get paid will depend mostly on what kind of coverage you had. Most policies cover “Replacement Costs” – To fix or replace your home – while more expensive ones will also cover “actual cash value” for any valuables lost to the fire.
After a fire, you should:
1. CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE
Regardless of which coverage you have, the first step is always the same, contact your insurance. Either through the agent that originally sold it to you or through your insurer’s claim system.
2. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING
As soon as you get the all-clear to enter your home, take pictures, and record all the damage – not only from the fire, but also firefighters – Make a list of everything destroyed or damaged, including what you paid for it and any receipts you can find.
3. VERIFY THE INVESTIGATORS IDENTITY
Unfortunately, plenty of unsavory people will try to take advantage of those in need. They might hope to take whatever valuables are left or scam you in some other way. In any case, you can verify the investigator’s identity by asking your insurance company for their name before they arrive.
4. SHOW THE INVESTIGATOR ALL THE DAMAGE
It’s not enough to walk him through part of your home, show him anything and everything that was damaged. Remember, he works for the insurance company, not for you.
5. COPY EVERY DOCUMENT
Whatever documentation you hand over to your insurance, keep a copy of, including lists of damaged products. On the same vein, if your insurer says you can get started on repairs, get that on writing.
6. IF NEEDED, GET ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES
If you feel what the insurance offers is not enough, or you have custom work which they do not know how to appraise, get a separate appraisal. You can also ask the representative to break down how he got to the offer, which can come in handy if things get to court.
7. VERIFY WHAT’S COVERED BY YOUR POLICY
Like I said above, the insurance agent works for the company, not you, so you need to take it upon yourself to get what you paid for. Some policies cover damage caused by firefighters, “loss of use”, debris removal, vegetation recovery, and more. Check the fine print.
How long does a fire investigation take?
Most fire damage insurance claims are resolved and settled in about 90 to 120 days at most. However, most homeowners are not familiar with the insurance claim process and are liable to make mistakes. This can delay the process further, so hiring a professional could be the way to go for some.
What if my house burns down and I have no insurance?
Luckily, fire insurance is becoming more and more common each day. However, there are still those who can’t or won’t pay for one. If they end up victims of a fire, things may seem quite hopeless, but there are a few options to lessen the burden somewhat.
- Was it your fault? If the fire was started by someone else, they may be liable for the damages caused. If this is the case, you can take them to court to receive reparations. If you’re renting, some landlords can be liable, depending on your state’s laws. Consult a lawyer.
- Do you qualify for aid? Like I mentioned above, there are plenty of charitable organizations that offer different kinds of aid to fire victims. Find those in your area and see if you qualify.
- Government help? You may also qualify for low-interest loans to get back on your feet. However, keep in mind you’ll have to pay them back eventually.
Is it Safe To Sleep in a House After A Small Fire?
Even small fires can leave dangerous smoke particles, soot, and carbon monoxide. As a rule of thumb, if you needed to use a fire extinguisher, it is not advised to sleep in a house after a small fire. If the fire was put out quickly and did not cause damage, it may be ok to sleep in the house. Always consult a fire restoration specialist after a fire.
How to Clean After A House Fire?
Aside from structural restoration, you will need to clean soot from clothes, furniture, and kitchenware.
- Wash all pots, pans, cups, plates, and silverware with warm soapy water
- Wash clothes with bleach if possible
- Clean walls (including wallpaper), furniture, and floors using a mild soap or mix together 4 to 6 tbsp. tri-sodium phosphate and 1 cup household cleaner or chlorine bleach to every gallon of warm water. Tri-sodium phosphate can eliminate odor in fabric. Be sure to wear gloves.
- Follow CDC Guidelines for safe cleaning
How do you recover from fire damage?
Depending on your particular circumstances, recovering from fire damage can be a long and painful process. Getting your life back together can take weeks or even months. Not only you’ll have to deal with fire damage(link article), but also lingering smoke damage(link article) and water damage(link article) from the firefighting team. This can lead to all sorts of health problems if not taken care of properly. If you want to sleep peacefully knowing you and your loved ones are not inhaling toxic substances, here at RestorationUSA we can get you in touch with the best restoration companies in your city. Contact Us Now!