Housefires are responsible for billions of dollars of damage, thousands of injuries and deaths, and countless lost memories. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), there are over 350,000 house fires every year. The most common causes of housefires are cooking, heating equipment, electricity, arson, and smoking.
While there’s no doubt a house fire is devastating, there are ways to mitigate the damage, as long as you move quickly. If you experience a house fire, here’s what you need to do to protect your family and get your life back in order.
What to Expect
There’s nothing good about a house fire. No matter how small, it can cause massive damage and will likely require a home restoration team to return your house to livable condition.
After the fire, you’re likely to find damage from four different elements:
Obviously, the fire itself and the heat can eat away at flammable materials in your house like upholstery, carpets, drywall, and wood. What most people don’t realize is that the flames and heat cause only part of the damage.
Smoke damage is a very real and lasting threat after a house fire. Smoke can embed itself in soft surfaces and stick around for months. Not only will that leave an irritating smell, but it can also make your family sick if you don’t hire a home restoration team to eliminate the smoke damage.
In addition to the fire, heat, and smoke damage—as if that wasn’t enough—you’ll also have to deal with water damage from the firefighters or your home’s sprinkler system (if you have one). All that moisture can damage your floors and walls, which could lead to mold growth if it’s not thoroughly cleaned by a home restoration service.
Depending on the size of the fire, the firefighters who put out the blaze might have needed to break windows, knock down doors, or cut holes in the roof or walls. Unfortunately, although it ultimately helped to save your house, this damage will also need to be fixed down the road.
All the damage done to your house during the fire will likely leave it unlivable for some time, which is why it’s important to act quickly and be prepared, so you can mitigate the damage and stress to your family.
Step 1: Take Care of the Essentials
Immediately following a house fire, before you do anything else, take care of any immediate, pressing needs to keep your family safe:
- Medical attention (if necessary)
No matter how “minor” the damage might seem, it’s not safe to live in your house after a fire. With all the smoke, water damage, and structural instability, it’s never a good idea to go back into your house until the fire department says it’s safe. Find somewhere to stay while everything gets sorted out.
If you don’t have family to stay with or can’t afford a hotel room, contact your local disaster relief agency like the Salvation Army or American Red Cross. They can help you find somewhere to stay and provide food, clothing, medicine, or other essentials you might need.
Once the essentials are taken care of and your family is safe, you can focus on mitigating the disaster.
Step 2: Call Your Insurance Company
Your insurance company will be a huge help in taking care of everything. So once all your immediate needs are fulfilled, the next step is to call your insurance agent to start a claim.
Your agent will be able to walk you through the steps to secure your property and offer recommendations to help with cleanup and home restoration. They’ll be a helpful resource to get you through the tough times following a house fire. Depending on your coverage, the insurance company may also cover the cost of repairs and replacing your belongings.
Your insurance policy might cover the cost of your temporary lodgings and other daily expenses, so keep track of all your receipts and document purchases made to cover the cost of living after a fire. The earlier you call your insurance company, the better it’ll be on your wallet.
If you don’t have home insurance, family members and community organizations might be able to offer some assistance covering some of your living expenses. These are just a few of the organizations that might be able to help:
- American Red Cross
- Salvation Army
- Nonprofit crisis-counseling centers
- Public agencies like the Department of Public Health
- Community groups
- Religious organizations
- State or local emergency services
Between temporary lodging, home restoration, and replacing your possessions, the cost of a house fire can really add up, especially if you don’t have insurance. There are people out there who can help; all you need to do is reach out.
Step 3: Call the Police to Let Them Know the House Will Be Vacant
With all the damage from the fire, your house probably isn’t very secure. With broken doors, windows, and walls, anyone can just wander in. So, to protect your house, you should call the police and let them know that the house will be vacant.
If the police know nobody is supposed to be home, they can keep an eye over the property and make sure nobody is going in to cause even more damage. It also helps to board up doors and windows to make extra sure nobody can get in. The police or fire department might even be able to help you physically secure the property.
Step 4: Work Out the Finances
Just because your life has been stopped in its tracks by a fire doesn’t mean your bills will stop too. Unfortunately, you’re still required to make rent, mortgage payments, car payments, or any other monthly bills for which you’re responsible. The next step in the process is to get your finances in order.
Contact your mortgage lender or landlord right away and tell them what happened. You should also contact any other lenders to whom you pay monthly bills. You should also contact your credit card company to report any cards that were lost in the fire and get replacements sent in the mail. You’ll need them to pay for food, lodging, and other expenses while your home is being restored.
Speaking of expenses, be sure to keep all receipts for your expenses. You might need them later for your insurance company, and you can use them to prove losses claimed on your taxes.
Step 5: Replace Important Documents
Paper and fire don’t mix. So, unless you secure them in a fireproof safe (which you should), you might need to replace some of your important documents:
- Driver’s license
- Titles and deeds
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Social security or Medicare card
- Stocks and bonds
Many of these documents will take some time to replace, so it’s best to start the process as quickly as possible after the fire. You don’t want to go too long without your important documents!
While it might not be a single “document” like everything else on the list, don’t forget about your paper money. Most people don’t store paper money in a fireproof safe, so chances are pretty good that you’ll be out a decent amount of cash after a fire. Luckily, it’s all replaceable.
Place each damaged bill in a plastic bag or wrap to preserve whatever is left. Even if only half of the bill is left, it can still be replaced. You can either take your wrapped money to the regional Federal Reserve Bank (ask your local bank if you’re not sure where it is) or send the burnt money directly to the U.S. Treasury. They’ll be able to replace your damaged bills, which will certainly help cover some of the costs you’ll have to deal with.
Step 6: Compile a List of Damaged Items
Once you get the okay to enter your home from the fire department, look through the house and grab anything that’s salvageable and start a list of anything that’s not salvageable.
But remember, just because something survived the flames doesn’t mean it’s salvageable. Smoke and water damage can destroy things just as badly as fire. It helps to work with a home restoration professional throughout the process who can provide expert advice on what to save and what to replace.
Your list of damaged items will help you with the insurance claim. You can submit the list to your insurance company for reimbursement on all your damaged belongings. For most insurance policies, the insurance company will offer the actual cash value of the damaged items. They might also provide replacement costs after you purchase new items. Check with your insurance agent for your policy details.
It helps to maintain a running list of all your personal belongings, just in case a house fire occurs. That way, you’ll have a definitive list of everything you own so you won’t forget about anything after the fire has ravaged through your house. Be sure to include receipts and bank statements of purchased items, so you can easily recall the price of each item to report to the insurance company. Store your list in a fireproof container; it won’t do you much good if it burns up with all your other belongings.
Step 7: Contact a Home Restoration Expert
Finally, with all your basic needs taken care of, it’s time to contact a home restoration expert and start getting your home back into livable condition.
It might be tempting to save some money and do the home restoration yourself (especially after spending so much already), but it’s much safer to leave it to a professional. Your home might not be structurally sound or still have hot spots. Since you never know what shape your house will be in after a fire, it’s always best to leave the restoration to an expert.
The home restoration service will inspect your home to determine if it’s structurally sound and identify any dangers like exposed electrical wires or weak spots in the floors. Once it’s deemed safe, they can begin the home restoration process:
- Remove soot, water, and debris.
- Assess the damage.
- Deep clean and deodorize the area.
- Rebuild damaged walls, ceilings, and floors.
When the home restoration is complete, you won’t even know a fire happened. Your home will be returned to its former glory and ready for your family to move back into.
CFRS: Home Restoration Specialists
Nothing about a house fire is easy, but choosing the right home restoration service can make it a bit simpler for you and your family. At Central Florida Restoration Solutions, we’ve worked with many Florida homeowners, helping them bring their properties back to their original condition after disaster strikes.
No matter your restoration needs, our experts are here to help. We provide unmatched fire, smoke, water, and mold mitigation services to bring your home back to its former glory. Although we hope you never need to use our services, if you experience a house fire, working with the experienced professionals at CFRS can make the home restoration process as fast and stress-free as possible.
If you’ve experienced a house fire, contact the experts at CFRS right away. We’ll help you restore your property so you and your family can get on with your lives.