Apartments or Home on Fire
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After House Fire Checklist 

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It doesn’t matter who you are and what walk of life you’re from, experiencing a house fire is extremely devastating. Not only are you forced to quickly get on with your life and immediately pick up all the broken pieces, but there are simply things that can never be replaced. When a house fire has taken place, it’s normal for a person not to have their head on straight and know what actions need to be taken.

My friend Lisa called a few days ago and mentioned her neighbor had gone to church on Sunday and after driving home, they could see smoke as they drove closer. They realized it was their home burning out of control with fire trucks lined up to try and save the home.

They couldn’t, the Fire Marshall mentioned it had probably been smoldering for a few hours and then went totally out of control. They lost their home and everything inside. In addition to the house, the cars were melted and a total loss.

The Fire Marshall said they may never know what caused the fire, but investigators are working on it.

House or Apartment on Fire

Please check Your Insurance Policy

Please check your homeowner insurance to understand the coverage you have if your home were to burn to the ground. If the value is the price you paid for the house 20 years ago that amount may not cover the value today. In other words, you could not rebuild unless you use your cash in the bank to cover the difference. It may seem strange, but each homeowner’s insurance company tends to treat fires differently regarding what they cover, how it needs to be documented, and how long the insurance claim process takes.

Be sure and check the “contents” coverage you have too. Is it enough to cover everything you lost? Do they require you to perform an inventory listing of what is in the home, when it was purchased, and list how much it cost. Taking pictures also provides another level of proof, just in case. I was curious to see how insurance companies reimburse the loss of contents. Fires can start in various ways, a small kitchen grease fire, an electrical fire, and a dryer fire are the most common issues. Garage fires are also fairly common.

Start Some Communication with Your Insurance Agent

I called my insurance agent at State Farm and after the fire they have their clients go and purchase the items as replacements and turn in the receipts to be reimbursed up to the policy coverage amount. Another insurance company, which will remain unnamed, replaced Nordstrom towels with Walmart towels. In other words cheaper quality.

In other words, they gave them an “allowance” of what they felt was fair market value for their towels and other items as part of the fire loss. This happened to a friend a few miles away several years ago after their home was damaged by a fire. Their insurance coverage seemed to take the low road with small reimbursed amounts. If you’re like me, you buy right the first time and many of your household items cost more than “average.”

After House Fire Checklist

Lisa and I talked about how her community could help this family get back on their feet so to speak. The family had insurance that has an allowance for a hotel stay until they could find a rental. Thankfully, some insurance companies will give you an “allowance” to rent a home for six months or until you can rebuild your home.

She and I talked about all the things that would need to be replaced after a fire. I’ve listed below some things you can gift to a family if the situation arises. One thing that doesn’t work is the statement, “let me know if there is anything I can do to help” when it comes to dealing with the insurance company. I’m not sure every insurance adjuster is out to help you rather than looking out for the insurance company itself.

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C’mon, they may never call us, pride is a huge deal. We must be assertive in a kind way if we feel comfortable doing so. I do and I will.

If you have a family who’s lost their home, I highly suggest giving the family a 3 by 5-inch card with your name, address, and phone number so they can reach out for some assistance (mention that you can text if you do). It doesn’t hurt to hand them some cash if you can afford to. Ask them if it’s alright to get their phone number so you can contact them in a few days. Then please follow up and see what items you can pick up for them. This is called a community that helps one another.

OTC Medications

I’m willing to bet that someone in this situation may have a few more headaches over the next few days than usual following a house fire. Although unfair, time doesn’t stop and wait for you to catch up and illnesses are still sure to happen. Please ask them if you can pick up some OTC medications such as ibuprofen, Tylenol, or Pepto Bismol for any stomach issues. If their prescriptions were lost in the fire, they will need to call their doctor’s office immediately so that they can get their new prescription bottles filled quickly.35 OTC Medications You Should Store

Here is a printable that may help you, OTC Printable by Food Storage Moms

Basic first aid kit

Remember this family or any family after a fire may have lost everything. They’ll not have bandages, cotton swabs, and alcohol pads, let alone antibiotic ointment. Boo boos seem to happen daily with kiddos running around. What’s In Your First Aid Kit?

Here is a first aid kit I highly recommend because I bought one. Of course, the family will need more, but this will help them get started. 330 Piece First Aid Kit, Premium Waterproof Compact Trauma Medical Kits. I like to give these as gifts to kids going off to school or getting married.

Snacks & Food

Imagine sitting in your hotel after your home has burnt down, you can’t go to the cupboard to even make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, let alone any snacks or other meal prep items. Getting together with neighbors and choosing healthy options such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, etc. are always best, but some comfort foods may do the trick too. I bet they would want some chocolate, right? You can’t forget to add snacks to the after-house fire checklist! Don’t Forget to Stock Your Favorite Snacks

Clothing

This goes without saying, the family will need several outfits of clothing for themselves and their children, including underwear, shoes, and jackets. Remember they only have the clothes they wore when they went to church, school, or work. We are talking about needing help NOW. Yes, they will get reimbursed from their insurance company, but when? In this case, I suggest getting some items from a local thrift store or giving cash so they can at least buy some new underwear. That’s pretty personal, gift cards to Walmart or Target would work, but I think cash is better.

Hangers

Now, when they move into the two-week hotel, apartment, or condo, they will need hangers to hang up their clothes in the closet they had to purchase or were gifted. I can’t even imagine, thinking, thank you for the clothes you gifted me and then realizing, I need something to hang them up on. This is a great item to give them.

Toiletries

The following are toiletry items that are necessary for day-to-day living but also provide a sense of comfort amidst all the chaos. Here are just a few items we take for granted every day. Our cupboards have these, most likely. Here again, these are items they need, please consider gifting to them.

  • Lotions
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Shaving products
  • Flossing

Feminine Products

This may be a little uncomfortable to ask them if you can pick some up for them. Handing them some cash may be better. If they were my close friends I could ask them which brand they like. Then, I’ll pick some up for them. How to Manage Your Period During an Emergency

Bathroom Items

Besides restocking up on toilet paper, they will need soap, hand towels, bath towels, and even bathroom and toilet bowl cleaners. Don’t forget a plunger. These are great items to deliver to them. How To Love Cleaning Bathrooms

Electronics/Technology

After being displaced from a house fire, it’s important to keep yourself connected with friends and family. And whether you can find a cheap video game system or an Ipad device, this will give their children something to do and keep them busy while you’re trying to help them sort this whole mess out.

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I would think they would need chargers for their phones, I can’t imagine how stressful this would be.

Kitchen items

While the family may probably be eating out more than usual, at some point they are going to need to start spending time cooking in the kitchen again. They will need kitchen items like:

  • Silverware
  • Cooking utensils
  • Plates
  • Cups
  • Glasses
  • Cookie sheets
  • Frying pans and pots
  • Dinnerware (Corelle Ware 8 Piece White Dishes Set) 

Other kitchen items that they need that are often overlooked include:

  • Saran Wrap
  • Foil
  • Baggies

When it comes to cooking, you’ll need kitchen staple items like:

Cleaning Supplies

If they will going be staying in a different place for the foreseeable future, it’s important to keep that space clean and tidy. Stock up on cleaning supplies will help them immensely:

  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Lysol wipes
  • Sponges
  • Mops rags
  • Detergents
  • Trash bags and trash can

Office items

You might miss a day of work or school following a house fire, but afterward, the show must still go on. They will need to have the following items so they can continue with work and so that their children can get their homework done:

  • Pair of scissors 
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Printer and printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Pens
  • Folders
  • Binders
  • Staplers
  • Tape and tape dispenser

Laundry supplies

Their laundry pile probably won’t be very big right away, but here’s a list of items they will need for a laundry room:

  • Laundry soap
  • Fabric Softener
  • Bleach
  • Stain remover
  • Dryer sheets
  • Odor remover
  • A new washer and dryer
  • Quarters for the laundry mat
  • Fels Natha Bar (for stains)

Emergency Car Kit

Cash and Gift Cards

Following a disaster like a house fire, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out help or accepting a generous and kind gesture, even if it’s a stranger. Don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong by asking for help. Let your friends, family, and coworkers know what your needs are. Sometimes people provide house fire victims with:

Contact Information Card

Extra Things to Know About After a Fire

Remember you still have to make your mortgage payments even if your home is burnt to the ground. The mortgage company still has that loan you took out, so they expect monthly payments.

I suggest checking your homeowner’s coverage. The values seem to have gone up everywhere, have you increased your coverage?

Be prepared to list every item in your house. Take videos, and pictures and keep them somewhere else. If we have a major power grid outage a thumb drive will not work.

What if your home doesn’t totally burn down and can be improved by fire damage restoration?

There are various non-profits and agencies that will step up to help. That may include the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, and other disaster relief services. You’ll want to make sure you get some trained professionals involved. There are great restoration companies located all over the country to help with cleanup. It could involve smoke damage restoration in rugs and carpets, cleaning the soot from the walls, and cleaning damaged goods like clothes, toys, and other household items as part of the restoration process.

What are some of the documents I need to be sure to put in a safe or bank safety deposit box?

Some things to consider storing away are:

  • Medical records
  • Birth certificates
  • Bank account information, including copies of credit cards, recent bank statements, IRA information, bonds, stock listings, etc.
  • Income tax records
  • Passports, driver’s license information, military records, and more.
  • If you have pets, shot records, pedigree documentation, and veterinarian contact info.
  • Marriage, divorce, and adoption records.

Are there other issues I need to consider?

If you were in the home when the fire started, you may want to get checked out to make sure you don’t have any damage to your lungs from the smoke and chemical fumes generated by the fire. Also, check your dogs to make sure there are no signs the fur has been singed indicating the pet may need medical attention.

You may want to check in with your local police department to see what can be done to prevent vandalism and theft on the property since you won’t be there to monitor things. What you don’t want is to lose items that weren’t considered a fire loss.

Final Word

These are just the basics of things you should have on your after-house fire checklist. With this list, you can be sure that you and your family will have the most important things needed to start anew. Can anyone think of any other items I may have forgotten? Feel free to leave a comment down below! May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Apartments on Fire AdobeStock_123400658 by Sue

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16 Comments

  1. Love this! After prepping for 3 possible tornadoes in the last month and the devastation seen 15 months ago in my husband’s hometown, Mayfield KY, the flooding in Eastern Ky in our backdoor, and just this weekend, Arkansas among many more, we all need these suggestions.
    We are now focusing on taking pictures of everything we own and upgrading our insurance. I would not want to try to remember everything. Making copies of drivers licenses and more for our water and fireproof safe, as well!

    1. Hi Marilynne, thank you for your kind words. I can’t imagine all the people right now who will need help after a fire, flooding, tornadoes, etc. I’m glad you are taking pictures of everything and looking to see if you need to upgrade your homeowner’s insurance. I can’t imagine how all the damage in so many states has affected families, emergency response, and the police, to name a few. God bless all those involved. Linda

  2. Who has that much cash or credit on hand to purchase items they lost and then wait to reimbursed? Hopefully if you are a homeowner and are insured you are better off than many but even so that seems like an overwhelming situation.

    1. Hi Anonymous, no one has that much cash on hand in my opinion. Let alone the time it takes to rebuild, replace, and shop for stuff, the list is overwhelming. I am worried about the uninsured or underinsured. All we can do is help those in need, even if it’s $1.00. Linda

      1. That’s for sure. Donations to a community fund after a tornado hit my area several years ago went directly to those in need too.

  3. Good post. Many in my state just lost those places to wildfires the other day.
    Anything that is recovered will probably need cleaning or washing. That’s something most can help do.

    1. Hi Matt, thank you for your kind words. I agree if anything can be salvaged or cleaned, those involved will need help for sure. I remember using Odoban when a neighbor had a fire in their basement which headed upstairs. The house was standing but their insurance company hired a company to try and make the smoke smell go away. Those of us who took bags of clothing, sheets, towels, etc. had to wash those items so many times and we still couldn’t get the smell out. Linda

  4. Linda, I was measuring out the ingredients for your 3 Bean Chili Soup Mix in a Jar to make tomorrow. I really enjoy the 3 Bean Chili Soup mix!!! After reading this article, a family who lost everything and are living in an extended stay hotel for a while, might enjoy getting some of your soups in a jar, the recipes, and a new crock pot. You could even make a batch up in the crock pot and include some jars for other quick one pot meals. Maybe add some bowls to eat it, along with serving utensils and a loaf of bread or crackers and a salad. A few storage containers could be a big help too.
    This article really got me thinking. Thank you for posting this one.

  5. When I was 12 (58 years ago) my home was a total loss in a fire. The inventory, as I recall, was the biggest thing that happened soon after. Mom and Dad went room by room and wrote down everything they could recall being in that room. They did find out the hard way that they had insurance that was not nearly enough to cover the cost to rebuild and replace personal items. I also grew up in a very very small town (we were out in the country). The town organized a “shower” (like a bridal shower) and we received everything to set up a new home as well as clothing for a family of 5.

    Then, in 1994, a forest fire came through and burned my Dad’s home (Mom had passed away 10 months before). This time, however, there was prior notice of evacuation so Dad was able to get some personal belongings and irreplaceable items out. Again, people in the area stepped up and supplied a lot of Dad’s needed items to set up a new home.

    Some things I have taken from those two experiences are: 1) KEEP AN INVENTORY. This can be as simple as taking photos of each room, garage, sheds, etc. 2) Keep the inventory/photos off property! This can be a simple thumb drive that you have a relative or neighbor keep for you in the event of a fire or other emergency where you lose personal items (theft). 3) Check with your insurance agent about coverage for things like antiques, artwork, guns, jewelry, etc. Many times, these things will need to be appraised and appraisal documentation submitted to the agent. Also, most of those things are not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance and will need to have additional insurance policies. Appraisals generally have fees associated. 4) When you purchase big ticket items like computers, tv’s, appliances such as stove, refrigerator, freezer, etc., keep the receipts and take photos to add to your inventory – scan them into your computer and add to your thumb drive that is kept off site if you have access to it. 5) Always ask for replacement cost insurance – this will ensure that the insurance keeps up with the costs associated with rebuilding and replacing. It won’t likely cover all of the costs associated but it will be better than standard insurance. And most likely will be more expensive. But if your home is a $500,000 home and burns completely, if your insurance only pays half that, you have a heavy burden.

    I know this is a long comment but: 2 home fires and having worked in insurance claims for a number of years, those are things I have learned! Oh and ask questions!! Before you lose your home. And always always insure for more than you think you need!!

    1. Hi Leanne, I’m so glad you shared your story. It took me two days to write this post but as I wrote it I thought about the fires YOU had gone through. I was going to email you to ask for more suggestions. This helps so much to hear from someone who has gone through not one fire, but two. Great tips, my friend, thank you, thank you. Linda

  6. Adding to my last comment!! As for the cash stash, be aware that if there is a house fire, this will not likely be replaceable. So, if you have $10,000 cash in your home, it will be lost to you forever. If you keep your money and important papers in a fire “proof” safe be aware that it may not truly be fireproof. And whatever you do after the fire and retrieval of the safe – DO NOT OPEN IT. Wait for a week or so to let everything cool down. If you open it right after retrieval and it is still hot, as soon as the door is opened, any papers (money, documents) will look OK but as soon as you touch them or try to take them out, they may crumble to dust!

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