Important Things To Do After A Fire
Making A Homeowner’s Claim for Fire Damage? Important Things To Do After A Fire.
Don’t leave your Insurance Claim to chance – you must be vigilant in what you do and the documentation that you retain after your home has been damaged. Do you really want to do things that might be in violation of your policy? Your insurer can use that against you when the time comes.
- Regarding your home –
- Get in touch with your landlord or mortgage lender as soon as possible.
- Get a copy of the fire report from the local fire department. For example, in Los Angeles, you can call the Fire Prevention Bureau, the Fire Marshall or the billing agency of the fire department. Check with the fire department to make sure your home is safe to enter. Be very careful when you go inside. Floors and walls may not be as safe as they look. The fire department will tell you if your utilities (water, electricity, and gas) are safe to use. If not, they will be shut off. Don’t try to turn these back on by yourself.
- Remaining soot and dirty water left behind can cause additional health concerns – make sure that family members and/or pets do not eat, drink, or breathe in anything that has been near the fire’s flames, smoke, soot, or water used to extinguish the fire.
- Secure the property to prevent possible looting. Talk to emergency services (Fire and Police Departments) on the process. Most insurance policies require this and find out in writing (email on your smartphone). Get names of emergency personnel in case their testimony is needed – in case this is ever questioned by your insurer.
- Inform the local police department that the site will be vacant if you and your family need to vacate. Also tell your trusted neighbors, so others can notice any suspicious activity in your absence.
- Take a video of the damage – use your smartphone.
- Your Insurance Company –
- Immediately contact your insurance company – this will set in motion the claims process as well as have your insurer help with professional cleanup options. Find out how they want you to make a list of things that were lost or damaged in the fire. Follow up ALL these insurer communications with emails – which you will need for your end of the claim. You don’t want to get into a “he said, she said” type of misunderstandings with something as important your home.
- Clean up requirements. Keep in mind that damage to the property often goes beyond what is immediately visible. Many insurers insist that professional cleaners will be needed. You will find it useful to discuss this with your insurance company. Consider damage caused by soot, ash, charring, smoke, odor, etc. in addition to the fire itself. Another huge concern is damage caused by water – as water damage can lead to more damage or even mold if not dried properly. Insurance companies will often have approved restoration contractors that you can call for board up (or use 1-800-BoardUp), structural drying, contents cleaning and structural cleaning and repair.
- Your financials –
- Check with your financial professionals (Lawyer and Accountant) or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about special benefits for people recovering from home fire damage and loss.
- Contact your credit card company to report credit cards lost in the fire – and cancel them and request replacements.
- Save all receipts for any money you spend. These receipts will document your expenses – and will also be needed for claims on your income tax forms.