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You wake up on a Tuesday morning to the sound of smoke detectors going off. You run downstairs and find your living room full of smoke, with flames dancing from your couch. In that instant, you’re flooded with worry about how this will impact you, your family, and pets, and more importantly, the safety of those who depend on you.
What do you do when seeing a home fire?
You need to act quickly because a home fire can put lives in danger or burn down all that you’ve worked hard for.
1. Call 911 for help
Your immediate concern is the safety of your family and pets, so call 911 right away. Once emergency crews arrive, you should:
Get everyone out of the house if possible. Have everyone get a safe distance away from the home fire. Go to a neighbor’s house if no one was hurt. Call family and friends to let them know what happened and that you’re okay.
2. Take pictures of the damage
Before anything, snap pictures of damaged property with your smartphone to help document everything for a potential insurance claim. Make sure to take pictures of any smoke and soot damage on the walls, ceilings, flooring, and electrical outlets. It’s also important to keep receipts for any supplies you’ll need (like water, food, or temporary shelter) because they will help you file an accurate claim that won’t be rejected by your insurance company.
3. Put out the home fire and limit the damage
Once emergency responders have arrived, they will ask you to extinguish the fire on your property as best you can. Don’t try to tackle it yourself because you may unknowingly cause more damage in the process. You should:
Pull out any flammable materials that may catch fire, like curtains or furniture. Use a fire extinguisher or water if necessary. Cover all broken glass with a wet towel so it doesn’t attract your pet’s attention.
Now that you and your family are safe, you’ll want to make sure that the damage doesn’t spread to other parts of your house. Limit the damage by:
Leaving the electricity off if you can’t find damaged electrical outlets. Turn off your gas supply if damaged or until a professional can assess it. Contact a professional as soon as possible to prevent mold and mildew from growing in moist spaces like basements, bathrooms, and attics.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible once emergency responders leave the scene.
Making a claim
Once everything is settled you can come up with a plan for whether or not to rebuild. If you’re unsure, ask your insurance agent for advice regarding your policy and the best way to maximize the reimbursement process. You may also want to consider hiring a contractor who has experience working on fire claims and will be able to give you a better estimate of what it will cost to rebuild your home. In either case, you’ll need these documents from the home fire that started:
A copy of an official incident report from the fire department. This will serve as the first document your contractor or insurance adjuster will refer to during the rebuilding process. A copy of a repair estimate from a professional contractor you’ve hired.
Before any money is released, the adjuster will want to assess the full amount of damage to your home and belongings, so they may ask you to provide records of expenses such as:
The cost of temporary housing (hotels, rental cars) during cleanup. The cost of replacing upholstery and furniture.
How long does it take to settle a fire insurance claim?
It can take anywhere from 3-12 months to process a fire insurance claim. Though it can vary depending on the severity of the fire, it’s not uncommon for claims to take even longer. If the claim was minor, it will be settled more quickly and if it’s severe, you’ll have to go through the full process for a reason.
Is Fire damage covered by homeowners insurance?
The Fire damage is covered by homeowners insurance in most cases. As a general rule, if your home has less than $100,000 of coverage for liability and the property was damaged by home fire, your insurance company will cover the cost of replacing it. On the flip side of that, if you have $100,000 to $300,000 of coverage for liability and your home was damaged by fire, your company will probably only cover up to $50k. If you exceed this amount then you’ll be responsible for repairing it yourself.
How do I settle a fire insurance claim?
Settling a fire insurance claim is like many other insurance claims. You’ll need to call your agent and explain what happens when you first found out. They will then ask you to file an official incident report with the fire department, which will help process your claim.
After that, your adjuster will come by your property and take notes on all of the damage and materials that were replaced or destroyed.
Hopefully, this guide has provided you with some tips for ensuring that any future fires don’t extend into your home. You’ll want to take precautions in order to avoid any major damage or loss of life when disaster strikes and follow your insurer’s instructions in an emergency situation.