What to do after a house fire

Whether it’s a small house fire or an uncontrolled wildfire, the most important thing is everyone’s safety. Then, it’s time to get your house back to being a home. No matter how big the loss is, dealing with the aftermath of a house fire can be daunting. We’ve compiled our top safety tips when going back to assess your home, and how to make the claims process a little smoother.

Assessing the damage:

1. Start with the outside. Check for damaged gas and/or power lines, broken support beams or any cracks in the foundation. If there is significant damage, it’s best to get approval from the fire department or a building inspector to check your house before you enter.

Heads up! If you smell gas, leave the property and call the fire department. Report any dangling power lines to a power company immediately.

2. Don’t force open jammed doors. If the front, side or back doors are tough to open or jammed shut, try entering through a different way as these doors might be providing support for the rest of the structure.

3. Be wary of any animals, rodents, or insects. Some critters and furry “friends” may have entered your home since your evacuation – when you go inside, make loud noises to make your presence known.

4. Look up and down. Make sure you look up to see if your ceiling is sagging (which means it could be full of water) and look down to see if your floor is caving (it might not be strong enough to hold your weight).

5. Inspect the fuse box or breaker panel. If you see broken or frayed wires, turn off all electricity – be careful of any water pooling around the fuse box or panel, don’t stand or step in it when turning the electricity on/off.

6. Try not to use the sinks or toilets. If you think there’s been damage to the sewer system, don’t use sinks, showers or toilets and try to get a plumber to come and assess the damage. Similarly, if any pipes are broken, turn off your main water line.

Safety with household items:

  • Sometimes after a fire, cleaning products can be a hazard (say, for example, amidst all the damage some have spilt and mixed together creating toxic fumes). Be sure to dispose of these properly.
  • It’s probably best to throw away any food that’s survived the fire – any exposure to heat or smoke may have made it unsafe to eat.

How to make the claims process smoother:

  • Gather as much documentation of your personal belongings as you can – the more you can document, the more you can claim. Your stuff is important to you, so try to provide proof of ownership of everything (not just the big things).
    • Pssst: We have tips for filing a home insurance claim that might help!
  • Be prepared that a large fire loss can take some time to settle – insurance companies often need the experts to come in and determine the cause and origin, as well as make a catalogue of all the lost contents.
  • The good news: depending on your policy, you could be covered for “additional living expenses”, meaning your insurer will pay for a hotel or somewhere for you to stay while your home is being repaired.
  • …More good news: if you choose to go with your insurance company’s preferred vendors, they’ll send a pre-screened contractor right away. At Sonnet, our contractors can start emergency work right away, with no appraisal or estimate needed (and the work is guaranteed for 2 years!).

In the end, your claims rep will be there to help guide you through the process.

Protect your home and the things you love most.