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What to do after a house fire

Dealing with a house fire requires you to pay attention to many details. You must first care for the health of your family.

Simultaneously you will need to handle many household matters. You may have to live elsewhere for a while. Upon returning to your home, the final set of details to deal with begins.

Immediate Concerns

After you are certain that the house fire is extinguished, it is time to tend to family matters. Do not re-enter the home until the authorities say that it is safe to do so.

You may need to stay with friends or family until the property is not only safe to enter but liveable as well. The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross provide temporary shelters to individuals and families in need.

If you do not have friends or relatives to stay with, contact these agencies. You may be allowed to gather a few items before leaving the property. If so, gather all vital records, medicines and valuables that you can.

If the police are at the scene of the fire, ask them about surveillance for while you will be away. If you have the ability to take a few pictures, perhaps with your camera phone, take these now.

Who to Contact

Contact the owner immediately if you are renting the home. Call your insurance company whether you are a renter (if you have renter's insurance) or an owner. If you are the owner, hire a professional inspector to perform a thorough inspection of your house to see if there has been any structural damage or damage to wiring and utilities.

Check first with your insurance company to see if it will pay for an inspector. Find out if staff recommends anyone specific. It might be a few months before you are able to live at home again. Some apartment complexes offer special move-in rates to families who have suffered any kind of disaster. Talk with the management of various apartments in your area. You will also need to notify your post office, utility companies, bank, your children's school and even credit card companies. Open communication during this time is important to prevent you from experiencing additional financial strain due to your displacement.

Some companies will even work with you to defer payments for a few months while you get situated after a disaster.

Also be certain to let your place of employment know what you are dealing with. Your managers or coworkers may be able to assist you in some way. At the very least they will be more understanding if you have to take time away from work.

Returning Home

Throw away any food that has been exposed to any aspect of the fire, including heat and smoke. Take pictures of everything as soon as you have access to the house. Photograph the house, the property and your household items. You will need these pictures for dealing with the insurance company. Research the replacement prices of everything you own that you will be listing on your insurance claim. If you are able to afford a cleaning company, you should call them to clean the house before you return home or immediately afterward. You may throw away all of your damaged items once you have viable pictures of them. Digital pictures that can be e-mailed are the best to use for dealing with the insurance company. It may take a few weeks for the insurance company to pay you for your damages. If you purchase new furniture and household items, save the receipts to turn in to the insurance company for reimbursement.