When a fire strikes a home, it is nothing short of tragic. It’s the last thing anyone would want to happen, and it is devastating to lose all of your belongings and your home in a matter of hours.
This is what Gary faced when he received the call that his Pennsylvania home had caught fire.
On the morning of the fire, Gary was at work. He received the call shortly after 8 a.m. As he was driving to his home, he thought about what he would find. He lived in a remote area where it would take time to get fire service, and he didn’t think there’d be anything left.
After he received the call, he called a friend of his who worked with the fire department, Shane. Shane was getting ready to head out to work at the time and only lived about a mile away from Gary’s home.
“The house was gone in a matter of two minutes,” Shane said.
He knew Gary had a safe in his sunroom but didn’t think it was likely to find anything salvageable.
When it was safe to do so, the local fire department used their jaws of life to pry open Gary’s Liberty Safe. The reaction to seeing the safe open was a complete surprise. Everything in the safe was still intact - all of Gary’s guns, optics, and other important valuables that he didn’t think he’d see again.
“I would never own any other brand of safe,” Gary said.
After the heat the safe endured, which, according to Shane, had to exceed far past Liberty Safe’s guaranteed limits, it was amazing to see everything that had survived in it.
While finding one’s belongings intact in a safe after fire strikes definitely provides a bright spot in an otherwise tragic event, there’s a lot more that must take place after a destructive fire occurs.
What to Do After a House Fire
Dealing with the tragedy of fire is enough for any family or individual to go through, and then dealing with the aftermath of insurance claims, utility calls, reports, and more can turn an already overwhelming situation into a logistical nightmare. We hope this information can help you navigate through this difficult time.
Contact family members and loved ones
One of the first things you should do after a fire has occurred at your home is contact close family members, friends, or loved ones. Inform them of the events and make sure you have a support system in place to help you during this time.
Watch These Other Liberty Safe Fire Survival Stories
Find a place to stay
After a fire occurs, even if it’s a small one that didn’t destroy your home, you’ll need at least a temporary place to stay. Your insurance may even cover a temporary hotel or rental while your home is being renovated and cleaned up. Keep receipts of any expenses for lodging and accommodation to turn into your insurance company if that is covered.
You may also consider asking friends or family if you can stay with them until you have a more permanent living situation. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.
Take care of your pets
If you have pets, that was in your home at the time of the fire, be sure to take them to their vet to check for any signs of smoke injury or burns. This is going to be a stressful time for your pets too, especially if you’re bouncing around to different living situations, so be sure to give them lots of love and comfort to help calm their nerves too.
Get a copy of the fire report
Your local fire department should have a report for the fire that took place at your home. Contact them to receive a copy of the report. You’ll need to provide this to your insurance provider if you make any claims.
Document all damage
Not every home that is struck by fire is completely destroyed. You may have a small area or room of your home that was damaged with the rest of your house still intact. Be sure to document the damaged areas with photos and videos.
Fire damage isn’t the only damage you’ll want to report. Even if a small section of your home caught fire, the rest of your belongings and other areas in your home could be affected by smoke damage. A video walkthrough of your home (after it is safe to do so as signed off by your local fire department) can help document your belongings and everything that was affected by the fire and smoke.
Contact your insurance agent
Call your insurance agent to inform them about the fire and ask about what steps you need to take. It’s okay if you’re not aware of everything that you need to do at this point, they can help walk you through any documentation you need to provide, what your insurance plan will cover, and how to make the proper claims to restore damaged property and belongings.
Contact your mortgage provider
Whether your home is still standing or not, if you have a mortgage out on it, that’s something that you’ll need to continue to pay. Oftentimes, insurance will cover mortgage payments or the entire balance of the mortgage in the case of a total loss. You should be able to determine what is covered when you contact your insurance agent.
Contact your mortgage agent to inform them of your circumstances. If your insurance isn’t covering your mortgage and your employment or income has been affected by the fire, discuss this with your mortgage provider to determine your options.
Contact utility providers
Whether your home has been completely destroyed or you just won’t be living in it for a while, contact your utility providers to have any utility services that you won’t be using halted–water, electricity, sewage, garbage services, etc.
Protect your home
If your home, or even parts of it, are still intact, you'll want to secure it as much as possible to protect it from weather and unlawful entry. You can tarp up your roof and board up windows to prevent further damage from natural elements, like rain, wind, and animals. To best protect your home from looters, board up any damaged doors or windows from the inside with thick plywood. Clamping or screwing the plywood to the inside of your home will prevent others from being able to easily unscrew or pry the boards away.
Contact a restoration company
A restoration company will help clean and repair areas of your home that were impacted by smoke or fire damage. Your insurance company may have referrals of local restoration companies that they work with–this can be helpful in getting claims and costs covered quickly when the companies are familiar with the interworkings of the other.
If you have to find your own restoration company, you can do a quick Google search for “restoration companies near me” to see reviews for local companies and find their contact information.
We recommend making this a top priority since restoration work can take time and you’ll want to get the process started as quickly as possible.
Recover your possessions
When it’s safe to do so, recover any possessions from your home that are undamaged and move them into a storage facility or take them with you to a temporary home.
If you’re unsure about fire or smoke damage, you can ask a restoration company to inspect your belongings (furniture, paintings, rugs, etc.) for smoke damage and have them clean these items for you.
Depending on the extent of the damage, you may have to throw out many belongings. That’s where having documentation of the damaged items will be helpful so that you can submit a claim to your insurance company to help fund the replacement of those items.
Start replacing important documents
If you lost important documents in the fire, you’ll want to start the process of replacing these so that you have them when you need them. Here’s a list of important documents that you may need to replace:
- ID cards, passports, driver’s license
- Birth certificates
- Social security cards
- Credit and debit cards
- Marriage certificate
- Insurance cards (health insurance, auto insurance, etc.)
- Diplomas, degrees, and other certificates of education
Notify your children's school/teachers of the event
Your children’s education will likely be disrupted, at least a little, by the events surrounding a house fire. Inform your child’s school and/or teachers of the fire and if they’ll be missing school. This can help you get any homework your child may have in their absence and get their absence (and maybe even some schoolwork) excused during this time. It will also help these other adults in your child’s life to be aware of outside factors that may be impacting behavioral changes so they can be more understanding to the situation.
Take care of your family's emotional needs
Whether the fire is small and caused little damage or you had a total loss of your home and belongings, take the time to address your own and your family’s emotional needs. Children can be impacted especially hard by the loss of their home or belongings, by moving around to different temporary homes, and by the loss of stability while you work on getting things back to normal.
Talk to your children about what is happening and what to expect, and seek out additional counseling for anyone who may need it.
Additional Resources for Home Fires
Home fires are tragic and devastating events. Fortunately, there are many resources and relief organizations in place to help when such events do take place. Check out these resources for additional assistance in your situation:
If the fire was caused by a wildfire, you may be eligible for Fire Management Assistance through FEMA.
For disaster relief, contact these organizations:
Always Protected with Liberty Safe
At Liberty Safe, your security is our number one priority. We hope that no one has to experience these difficult events, but we know that fire can strike out of our control. So we have built Liberty Safes to help provide the peace of mind that your important valuables and sentimental belongings will be safe should the unthinkable happen.
To learn more about our home and gun safes, visit our online store today.