House fires are scary and upsetting. There are no two ways about it. They can also be confusing. Most people have not been through one and do not know what to do after a house fire.
Do not go back in until you know it is safe.
This may seem like a given but it can seem safe before it is. If a structure has suffered a fire, do not enter the premises until it has been cleared by a fire professional. They are experts in this very thing and will not let people into a home after a house fire until it is safe.
Be prepared to not be allowed back in at all. There are instances when it is never going to be safe to go back in after a house fire. Some fires do just too much damage to the structure to make it safe to enter. It may be hard to hear but no items in your home are worth risking serious injury or worse.
Have a plan for who to call after a house fire.
The first people you will want to contact are your family who live in the home but may have been somewhere else. The next thing you need to do is contact your insurance carrier. They need to be made aware of the situation so that they can help you get your claim started. They can get you living expenses and arrange for emergency housing. If you have to pay out if pocket, get receipts. Your insurance carrier can also help arrange for clean up after a house fire. There will be home water damage and they can help with your house fire damage repair needs.
If you are not the owner of the home, you will need to contact your landlord. You may need other services such as those offered by some local charities or the American Red Cross. Everyone’s needs in this situation are different and there may be services offered by your city or locality. Having a plan in advance helps many individuals and families after a house fire.
Get a copy of the fire report.
The agency or department who can help you get a fire report differs from area to area. You should start with your fire department. This report should detail the time of the fire, the location and the cause. It will come with an incident number. You may need all of this for your insurance carrier.
Start the clean up process.
The first step is to secure your home. If the fire was bad enough to allow strangers to access it, you need to do what you can to make sure they cannot come in and rob your home. Your local emergency services department can advise you about this and this step is often required by most insurance carriers. It will also give you and your family more peace of mind.
You will have the damage from the fire itself but also from the water used to put it out. When the fire department is involved, there is often interior water damage, which is still a lot better than had they not used it. This may lead to you needing to contact a mold remediation and removal service. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified thousands of kinds of mold and all of them are dangerous for human health. Mold removal should be covered by your insurance policy.
If you can, you should also talk to professional cleaners after a fire. They may be able to help you salvage some items that you thought were beyond help. If the damage is not that bad, you may be able to do the cleaning yourself. Talk to your insurance carrier about what they will and will not cover in terms of cleaning.
It is hard to think of all of the things that you will need to do after a fire until you have actually experienced one. These are stressful experiences and you may want to seek out counseling for your children, if there are any, who may have been traumatized by the experience. The good news is that there is help available and things will get better.