Experiencing a house fire is a frightening, unwelcome experience that hundreds, if not thousands of Australian homeowners face each year. Without home and contents insurance, this unfortunate event can be crippling.
Although you won’t be able to reverse what has happened, it’s crucial to know how to deal with it. With these simple tips, dealing with the aftermath can be achieved with minimal hassle and expense.
Protect your home from further damage
Once the blaze is out and firefighters have left, and before any cleanup can begin, the site must be secured and protected from further damage by weather, theft or vandalism. Most house and contents insurance policies will require this. Ensure all entry points can be locked to prevent unwanted ‘visitors’.
Ensure there is no further physical risk
To ensure no physical harm is caused to you and your family, call for local gas, fuel and electricity suppliers to disconnect all services before entering the home. All wiring which may have been water damaged should be checked by a licensed electrician before power is restored.
Do not start cleaning up immediately
Once the house has been cleared of any hazards and is deemed safe, you’ll need to decide whether you can handle the cleanup independently. If it’s extensive, leave everything as is and contact your insurance agent so damage can be documented and professionally repaired.
If the fire was contained and damage is minimal, you can tackle it yourself. If you do opt to cleanup yourself, wear a mask to filter air, wear tough gloves and thick-soled boots. You never know what you may tread on or come across.
Start cleaning from the ceiling and work your way down. Use a shop vacuum to remove the dry soot and any residue left from fire extinguishers. Open doors and windows so fresh air can circulate through the house and dissipate the smell of smoke. Clothing, carpets, and other furnishings may require professional cleaning to eliminate smoke odour.
If water hoses were used to put out your fire, drying your home is very important. Water damage can lead to more damage or even mould if not dried properly.
How to claim
To make a claim on you home and contents insurance policy contact the insurance company. As well contact the local police and family members who may be unaware of what’s happened. Advise the claims manager of loss or damage in the form an inventory of all household items damaged by fire. It’s best not to throw away any damaged goods until after an insurance assessor has viewed them. Collect receipts as they verify what money you’ve spent relating to your fire and the losses claimed. This will further speed up the claim.
Having your house damaged or destroyed by fire is extremely traumatic and can have lasting impacts on each family member. Most importantly, you have one another, and things can be replaced.
Joanne Lemke is a final year creative writing student at UOW, who is looking to break into the corporate copywriting space once she graduates and hopefully go on to eventually some day write a book around her other passions, namely cooking and travel.
Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvs/3540320095/