My home is not safe to sleep in tonight. What now?
There aren't many things more terrifying than losing your home in a fire. A large portion of your belongings are kept in your home, and now you are without them. You may have lost all of your clothing, toiletries, keepsakes, and important papers. What do you do now?
The first thing you have to think about is where you are going to sleep. If your home was partially or fully damaged in a fire, it is probably not safe to stay in your home until it is repaired. Most likely the utilities have been shut off for safety purposes, so you will not have electricity or running water. If you are insured, most homeowner's policies include coverage for Additional Living Expenses (ALE). This should be outlined in your policy. Then you can decide whether to stay in a hotel or get a temporary apartment, depending on the extent of the damage to your home. You may have family or friends who would open their homes for you to stay for a night or two, but if you have ALE coverage, you'll want to find a place that you can stay comfortably for the duration of your repair. That way, you can be focused on getting your home completely restored without the stress of sleeping on Mom's couch. The American Red Cross also provides relief to disaster victims, such as money for clothes and toiletries, and even a night or two in a hotel while you decide what you're going to do next.
The next thing you need to think about is boarding up your home. If the doors and windows have been compromised due to the fire or the extinguishing of the fire, you will need to board them up. This will prevent anyone -- such as a neighborhood child -- from entering the structure while it is unsafe, and also protect what is left of your belongings from looting. Once the fire is out, you may want to go inside to see if there is anything left to save. You should communicate with fire officials to ensure that your home is safe enough to re-enter to retrieve any belongings that can be salvaged. Do not enter your home unless the fire officials have deemed it safe to do so. Be sure to wear protective items such as gloves or breathing masks to ensure that the soot and smoke do not cause damage to your person. Once you have retrieved anything of use, you will want to arrange for the boarding up of your home.
Finally, you will have to begin the process of getting back to normal. You will need to arrange for the repair of your home, and you will have to catalog all of the items you lost in order to replace them. It's easy to think of things like furniture, draperies, and electronics, but then there are things like your coffee maker and your favorite mug. There is a really great tool online for cataloging your belongings at http://www.personalpropertypricing.com/. You can list out all of the things that you have to replace, and it is linked to current online prices. It's not a bad idea to go ahead and use the tool before you have a disaster, but it can be a great resource in the event of a loss.
Homemaster provides boardup and restoration services for your home 24/7/365. If you call us, we will come out to your residence and board it up. We also can help you find a hotel for a few nights or a fully furnished corporate apartment for a longer period of time, and bill your insurance. Then we can help you begin the process of getting back to normal. We will walk you through your boardup and restoration from start to finish. You will receive our exemplary concierge care throughout the duration of your repair and beyond, because hassling with a contractor is not something you should have to endure after experiencing a disaster such as a home fire. Homemaster to the rescue!
Val Staples is a mom, mini-farmer, medical student, and a freelance blogger.