Your home is more than a structure with an address. It’s the place you lay your head at night and where you spend time with those you love the most. Suffering a home fire is devastating. You will go through many emotions and will likely need some help in the days and months following the fire. Determining if its best to move or rebuild isn’t always an easy decision, but it’s one you will have to make quickly.
Here are a few things to take into consideration in the days after a house fire.
Evaluating the Damages
Fires can range from damage to one area of the home to a total loss. No matter what the extent of damage is, you’ll probably be asking, “What do I do?” as you prepare for the future. Once you’re sure everyone is safe, its critical that you contact your insurance company right away.
Notify your agent of the fire and estimated damage. If you weren’t able to secure essential items, you can ask your insurance company for an advance against the claim you will file. Keep track of your expenses while you’re unable to live in your home. You will also need to contact your lender if you have a mortgage.
You’ll need to make sure the property is secure. Your local fire department should help to make sure all smoldering has stopped to prevent further flare-ups. If the home was a total loss, you might need to secure the property by sealing up windows and doors, posting signs, or placing a fence or other border around your home. The last thing you want to think about is losing more of your belongings to looters. However, this happens after home fires, and securing the home can help to minimize further loss through theft.
Finding a Place to Stay
There are a number of health concerns when it comes to living in an area after a fire, even if your home only suffered partial damage. While breathing and eye irritation may seem like minor issues to deal with now, they can lead to the development of long-term conditions down the road, such as chronic bronchitis, cataracts, and dry eye syndrome, which can be dangerous when left untreated.
If damages are severe enough that you’re unable to live in your home, you might need to stay at a hotel or with family. Call your credit card company and bank to notify them of the fire and request that any necessary documents or cards be replaced. You can also contact your local Red Cross to help with food and clothes in the immediate days after the fire.
A Lifetime of Memories
The days or weeks after a fire are trying. You will be mourning the loss of part of or all of your home while trying to make big decisions for the future. Personal belongings, mementos, family photos, and heirlooms may be damaged or destroyed, and sorting through the debris can be emotionally devastating. Ultimately, there is no right answer when it comes to moving or rebuilding.
Staying in the same location can sometimes be easier for kids who don’t have to move to a new neighborhood or school. However, it’s essential to remember that living through a house fire and going back into the same home or location might be challenging too. Recovering emotionally after a residential fire can look different for each member of your family.
Plans to Rebuild or Repair
While the fire probably caused damage, the process of extinguishing a fire can be hard on your walls and roof, too. Sometimes chemicals are used to minimize the flames, leaving behind even more damage. When you return to the home to examine the extent of the loss, you might notice soot, along with damage to the actual structure.
Rebuilding or repairing isn’t always an option. However, if the insurance adjuster and your construction company feel that reconstruction is possible, you can probably get started quickly once the home is cleaned and surfaces are prepped for repair. If you decide to rebuild in the same spot, you can preserve many of the memories associated with the property and any buildings on the lot.
Many people choose to move after house fires for various reasons. Maybe you were ready to sell the home anyway, or building the house of your dreams isn’t possible on the current lot. Relocating can come with many moving fails that you can prevent. Be sure to upgrade furniture such as sofas or mattresses that suffered water or smoke damage in the fire.
Create a moving checklist to get you ready for the big day. Go through old belongings and get rid of donated items you no longer need. Stock up on moving supplies such as boxes, tape, blankets, and bubble wrap. Stop by the local post office to change your address.
Looking to the Future
There are a few things you can do to prevent a house fire in your new home:
- Install smoke alarms and test the batteries once a month.
- Keep the stove and oven clear of towels and other flammables when cooking.
- Be careful with candles, maintain cords, and keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
- Talk to your family about the house fire and create an evacuation plan so that everyone knows where to meet should you ever have another house fire.
Planning for the worst is scary, but it can save the lives of you and your family. Taking these steps toward recovering after a home fire will help you build a new foundation for the fruitful years to come.