After the Fire – A Comprehensive Post-House Fire Checklist
Suffering a house fire is one of the most devastating events a homeowner can experience. The loss of personal belongings and cherished keepsakes often leaves survivors feeling completely helpless. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to protect your property after experiencing a house fire. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything from getting control over your insurance benefits and securing the perimeter of your home with board-up services to assessing damages and dealing with insurance claims adjusters.
Steps to Take Immediately Following a Fire
The moment your house catches on fire, you’ll be in a state of shock. You may not even know what to do first. Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take right away to ensure that everyone is safe and that the damage done by the fire is minimal.
First and foremost, call 911 as soon as possible. The sooner first responders are at your location, the sooner they can assess what’s happening and get control over it—or if necessary, help evacuate everyone from the building safely. Once they arrive on scene, they will direct you through each step needed for them to extinguish the flames and make sure that no one is left inside or exposed to hazardous chemicals/emissions such as carbon monoxide poisoning (see below).
Assess the Damage
The first thing you should do after a fire is assess the damage. This can be overwhelming, but it's important that you know exactly what you're looking for so that you can make an educated decision about where to go from there.
- Look for structural damage and stability. Structural damage refers to any changes in the physical structure of your home that occurred as a result of the fire. You'll want to inspect walls and floors, windows and doors, roofing materials, ceiling beams and supports (if possible), plumbing systems, electrical wiring/outlets/switches—everything!
- Check for smoke or water damage. Even if no flames were visible during the fire itself (or even if they weren't even suspected), there may still have been smoke damage hidden inside walls or ceilings. This means having an expert come in with specialized equipment like thermal imaging cameras, so they can determine whether there was enough heat generated that could potentially cause structural integrity issues down the road.
Back-Track to the Source
After the fire has been extinguished, you may be eager to see what happened and how much damage has been done. It’s important to back-track to the source of the fire so that you can prevent another one from happening.
- Investigate the cause of the fire: If it was an electrical issue, find out if there are any other problems in your home that could lead to another fire.
- Check for hazardous materials: If it wasn’t an electrical issue, check for any other possible causes like flammable liquids or gas leaks around your house. Also look at all of your belongings and make sure they aren’t leaking anything dangerous onto surfaces where they might ignite a new fire later on – this includes cleaning products!
Gather Valuable Documents and Information
One of the most important steps you can take after a house fire is to gather all of your valuable documents and information. This includes copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees, Social Security cards (and numbers), passports and immigration papers, wills, deeds to real estate—anything that may be necessary for insurance companies or creditors to prove ownership of property.
Once you’ve begun rebuilding your life after the fire, it’s important that these documents are stored safely in case they are needed later on. Some people choose to use an online cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive; others prefer using a hard drive or flash drive. The choice is up to you!
Evaluate Your Insurance Benefits and Plan Ahead
After the fire, it’s important to collect your insurance information and determine the amount of coverage you have. In addition to making a list of what is covered and what isn't, you should also ask about any exclusions or limitations on your policy. Your insurance company may be able to help you get an estimate for repair costs.
Make a List of Damaged Items
Once the fire is out, you will have time to make a list of damaged items and the rooms they were located in. You should also note how much damage was done to each item. This will be helpful when it comes time to file an insurance claim and replace your belongings.
If firefighters were able to recover any of your possessions, it's important to check with your insurance company to see if they can help you with a claim. Your policy may cover items that were damaged but not destroyed in the fire. If so, you may be able to recover those belongings from the insurance company and donate them to a charity organization that can use them for good.
Securing Your Home with Board-Up Services
After you and your family have safely returned to your home following a devastating house fire, it is important to take steps to secure the perimeter of your home and protect yourself from intruders. If you are not able to secure the perimeter of your home, either by yourself or with help from a board-up company, you may find that strangers enter your property and steal items. This can be especially dangerous for homeowners who have lost their homes in fires because they will likely have minimal possessions left after such an event.
If you’ve been the victim of a house fire, the last thing you want to do is feel like you are alone in this difficult time. A professional fire restoration company, like SERVPRO of South Baton Rouge will be there for you every step of the way. We understand what it means to go through something like this and we want to help ease some of your stress. If at any time during the process, you have questions about getting back on your feet again or just need someone else who understands what it’s like – don’t hesitate to reach out! We will get your Baton Rouge, LA home back to normal as quickly as possible.