What to Expect

A fire in a home can cause serious damage. The building and many of the things in your home may have been badly damaged by flames, heat, smoke and water.

You will find that things the fire did not burn up are now ruined by smoke and soggy with water used to put out the flames. Anything that you want to save or reuse will need to be carefully cleaned.

The firefighters may have cut holes in the walls of the building to look for any hidden flames. They may even have cut holes in the roof to let out the heat and smoke. Cleanup will take time and patience.

Steps to Take

Take Care of Yourself and Your Family

Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army. They will help you find a place to stay and to find food, clothing and medicine. Make sure that you have a safe place to live temporarily. You have a big job ahead of you. Get
plenty of rest, and ask for help. Do not try to do it all alone.

Help Your Pets

If you have pets, find and comfort them. Scared animals often react by biting or scratching. Handle them carefully, calmly and gently. Try to leave pets with a family member, friend or veterinarian if you are visiting or cleaning your damaged home. Keep your pets out of the house until the cleanup is complete to keep them safe.

Security and Safety

Do not enter a damaged home or apartment unless the fire department says it is safe. Fires can start again, even if they appear to be out. Watch for damage caused by the fire. Roofs and floors may be damaged and could fall down.
The fire department will make sure the utility services (water, electricity and gas) are safe to use. If they are not safe, firefighters will have your utilities turned off or disconnected before they leave.
Contact your police department to let the police know that you will be away from your home. In some cases, you may need to board up openings so that no one can get in when you’re not there.

Contact Your Insurance Agent

Contact your insurance company right away. Ask what to do about the immediate needs of your home. This includes pumping out water and covering doors, windows and other openings.
Ask your insurance company what to do first. Some companies may ask you to make a list of everything that was damaged by the fire. They will ask you to describe these items in detail and say how much you paid for them.

If you do not have insurance, your family and community might help you get back on your feet. Organizations that might help include:
• American Red Cross.
• Salvation Army.
• Religious organizations.
• Public agencies, such as the public health department.
• Community groups.
• State or municipal emergency services office.
• Nonprofit crisis-counseling centers.

Handling the Damage

There are companies that are experts in cleaning and/or restoring your personal items.
Whether you or your insurer buys this type of service, be clear on who will pay for it. Be sure to ask for an estimate of cost for the work and agree to it in writing. You will find the names and phone numbers for companies that do this work in the phone book and on
the internet.

Ask your insurance company for names of companies that you can trust.
These companies may provide services to:
• Secure your home against more damage.
• Estimate damage.
• Repair damage.
• Estimate the cost to repair or renew items of personal property.
• Store household items.
• Hire cleaning or repair subcontractors.
• Store repaired items until needed.