Imagine returning home to find your entire house in ruins, reduced to a somber blackened structure with only the sky visible through the damaged roof. This heartbreaking scenario is what Ariel Henley experienced not once, but twice. Dealing with the aftermath of a house fire can be overwhelming, leaving victims scared, upset, and confused about what to do next. However, with a plan in place and support from loved ones, it is possible to rebuild your life. Here are the first three crucial steps to take after a house fire:
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Contact Your Insurance Company
If you have homeowner’s insurance, it is vital to reach out to your insurance company as soon as possible. Reporting the loss promptly ensures that you can make a claim for the damage. Get in touch with your agent or broker and provide all the necessary details, such as when and where the fire occurred. If feasible, include photos and videos as evidence. Expect an adjuster from the insurance company to visit your property and assess the damage. Cooperate fully with their investigation to expedite the resolution of your claim. At Hippo, we have developed a dedicated 24/7 claims concierge team to provide support and assistance to our clients during this difficult time, helping with everything from hotel reservations to coordinating cleaning services.
Obtain a Copy of Your Fire Report
To assist with your insurance claim, it is essential to obtain a copy of the fire report. This report includes crucial information about the incident, such as the time, date, and condition of your home when the first responders arrived. In most places, fire reports are public documents. You can obtain a copy by contacting your local fire department, fire prevention office, or fire marshal. If you have trouble finding it, consider reaching out to the fire department’s billing agency, as they may have the necessary information. In certain areas, the fire incident report may need to be attached to the fire department bill.
Organize Your Finances
After a fire, it is crucial to contact your landlord or mortgage lender. Even if your house was completely destroyed, continue making monthly payments to stay current. Don’t forget to reach out to your credit card companies and request replacements for any cards you may have lost. Keep all receipts and maintain a detailed record of any expenses incurred while you were displaced.
Since there is no way to predict when a house fire may occur, it is important to be adequately prepared. Take the following steps to ensure you are ready for any eventuality:
- Review your insurance policy to understand what is covered and what you may be responsible for in the event of a fire.
- Consider the true value of your possessions and ensure you have sufficient coverage.
- Create an inventory of all the items in your home, including a video recording. Keep a physical copy in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box, and create a digital backup on platforms like Dropbox or Google Drive.
- Build an emergency fund to cover living expenses for at least three to six months.
- Invest in fire extinguishers and fire escape ladders for every second-story window.
- Install smoke detectors or, better yet, smart smoke detectors in every room.
- Develop an emergency plan with your family, including escape routes, and conduct regular fire drills.
By following these initial steps and taking proactive measures beforehand, you can navigate the aftermath of a house fire more effectively and begin the process of rebuilding your life. Remember, it’s easier to recover from a disaster when you have a plan in place.