What to Do After a House Fire

Posted by Pekin Insurance on Jan 16, 2017

The thought alone is hard enough to handle. Make sure that you know what to do after a house fire.

It's every homeowner's worst nightmare. You come home after a long day only to see plumes of smoke rising from the place where your house used to be. Or worse, you're relaxing at home and suddenly smell burning wood. By the time you discover the fire, it's usually too late. And until now, it hasn't even occurred to you that you're not quite sure what to do after a house fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, there were 365,500 residential fires in 2015 resulting in thousands of injuries and deaths and $7 billion in damages. That's a lot of destruction. And while most people will (hopefully) never have to suffer the ordeal, it's always a good idea to have a plan in place.

How to prevent house fires

The best plan, of course, is one of prevention. Don't leave candles burning unattended. Make sure you extinguish the embers of a hearth fire before leaving your home and that your chimney is in proper working order. Be extra careful when cooking with gas equipment and inspect the area for any signs of gas leaks before lighting a match. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand in the kitchen. And especially during the holiday months, be mindful of open flames near Christmas decorations—many of them are quite flammable!

Get out, get help—in that order

Prevention is ideal but not always possible. If you happen to be home when a fire breaks out, get out as fast as you can. Leave everything except family members behind. If there is a lot of smoke, crawl on the floor toward the nearest exit to avoid smoke inhalation. No matter how small the fire is, don't attempt to call for help from inside the house. Once you're out of harm's way, call 911 from a mobile device or a neighbor's house.

As soon as you can, call your insurance company

It may sound like a strange priority, but if you're making a list of what to do after a house fire, calling your insurance company should be near the top of it. It's important that they find out about the fire as soon as possible so an adjuster can come and inspect the damage once it's safe. They will also be able to connect you with restoration services and other contractors who will help to put your home back together quickly.

Secure the property

When thinking about what to do after a house fire, many people forget to secure the remaining property. If the fire hasn't completely destroyed your home—and hopefully it hasn't—make sure that remaining valuables are collected and or secured. A fire or police official should surround the area with caution tape, but if it's safe to go into the property, make sure you lock up or remove anything else that can no longer be secured by house locks.

Create a list of damaged items

What to do after a house fire includes saving any undamaged items and recording items that have been damaged so you can replace them. This can be a daunting process, especially since you need to complete this task as quickly as possible. Don't panic. Take a deep breath and list items one at a time, starting with essentials. You don't need to list things like family photos and items of strictly sentimental value. If lost, unfortunately, those can't be replaced.

Other things, like clothing, furniture, kitchenware, and essentials like a toothbrush, should be listed out item by item as specifically as possible. You don't need to know the value of the items right away— you can determine that later. For now, just create a snapshot of your damaged or lost property.

Get a copy of the fire report

In all the melee of a house fire, it's easy to forget this step. However, obtaining a fire report is important for you and your insurer to know all the details of the fire as determined by the fire department. You can obtain a copy through the fire department or the police department.

Find a safe place to stay

Most importantly, make sure you have a safe place to stay after a fire. Your insurance company might be able to give you an advance toward a hotel if you don't have relatives or friends nearby, or they can at least point you in the right direction. You can also reach out to the police department for guidance. Whatever you do, don't feel like you have nowhere to go. The authorities will help you during this difficult time.

Do you have the coverage you need in case of a house fire? Contact your Pekin Insurance agent to see how we can help.

Have you experienced a house fire? What tips or advice would you give to others? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.


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