Securing Your Self and Your Property
We have put together this list of useful information to help guide you through this difficult time. This is only a helpful guide and your circumstances may vary.
If you or anyone else has been injured, inhaled smoke or been burned do not hesitate to seek medical attention immediately. If you have property insurance, be sure to notify your insurance carrier about your loss. If you are not insured, read the information abut being uninsured. Try contacting private organizations such as the Red Cross or Salvation Army for aid and assistance.
- Secure your property- Make arrangements to secure the property. In some cases it may be necessary to board up doors, windows, and other exposed areas, to discourage trespassers and stop further damage.
- Many communities also require boarding up the property. It may be necessary to pump out water and winterize plumbing. Your insurance company will want your property to be secured. Emergency repairs should be made to help minimize loss damage. Almost all homeowner’s policies cover these costs.
- Check with the fire department to make sure your residence is safe to enter. Have a fireman accompany you when you enter the damaged structure. Be watchful of any structural damage caused by the fire. Roofs and floors may be damaged and subject to collapse. Fires can also rekindle from hidden, smoldering remains. Due to airborne soot and other particulates a protective mask should be worn when entering the damaged structure.
- Locate important & valuable items if possible. If it is safe to do so, try to locate the following items:
- Identification, such as driver’s license and Social Security Cards/passports
- Insurance information
- Medical/ Prescription information
- Eyeglasses, hearing aids or prosthetics
- Valuables such as credit cards, bank books, cash and jewelry
- Gather up a few days of clothing if possible. You may be able to take them to a laundry mat and clean them. Special additives may be needed for proper cleaning and deodorizing. If the clothing has too much smoke damage it may be impossible to wash the smoke odor or stains out. It may be necessary to purchase new clothing to wear. Save your receipts for your insurance company.
- Make arrangements for a temporary residence. There are several hotels with weekly and monthly rates. Many of them have units available with a kitchenette, living area and bedrooms. If you have homeowners insurance or renters insurance this expense is normally covered by your insurance. Consult with your insurance company and get approval before any long-term arrangements are made. If you are unable to get a temporary residence try contacting family, friends, the Red Cross or Salvation Army.
- DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself. The fire department should see that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. Your mechanical, electrical and gas systems may need to be checked by a professional, even if they do not appear to be damaged.
- DO NOT eat any food from the location until it has been properly inspected and deemed useable. Heat can spoil foods and medications. The smoke can also be very toxic and seep into the packaging.
- Leaving Your Home
Contact your local police department to let them know the site will be unoccupied. The Fire Department can assist you with this. Beginning immediately, save receipts for any money you spend. These receipts are important. They will show your insurance company what you have spent due to your fire loss. This will help you get reimbursed from the insurance company for the covered cost s you are entitled to. You will also need the receipts to verify any losses claimed on your income taxes.
What to do if you are Uninsured or at Renter
If you rent…
Contact the property owner or representative to inform them of the situation. It is the owner’s responsibility to secure the property. The property owner normally insures their property only. It’s normally the renter’s responsibility to insure their contents (furnace, clothing, etc). If you have renters insurance, contact your insurance agent immediately.
If you Do Not have Insurance
Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army to help with your immediate needs, such as:
- Temporary Housing
- Other essential items
Other Helpful organizations to help you recover from your loss
- United Way
- Religious organizations
- Department of social services
- State or municipal emergency office
- Non=profit crisis counseling centers
Don’t hesitate to accept help from others. This can be an extremely difficult time. It can be very hard to return to a normal life with out help from your family, friends or the community.
Be aware of Public Adjusters, they can be high-pressure salesman. They normally charge a fee at 10% of the total insurance loss. This can be a large and unnecessary fee. This fee can make it difficult for you to restore your losses. Public Adjusters have been banned in several states. If you sign with a Public Adjuster you may cancel your contract within the legally specified time. Public Adjusters may also represent themselves as a contractor. Be sure to ask for a business card and check to see if they are also public adjusters. Be aware of the contract terms when dealing with a public adjuster.
- It is you’re responsibility to mitigate (minimize) your loss for the insurance company. This would include making sure your property gets boarded up and emergency repairs are made to decrease the loss. Additional losses may occur due to rain, freezing, wind, standing water, theft, or others being injured at the site.
- Do not move or disturb any of the items or debris near the origin of the fire until it has been released by the fire department. Your insurance company may also send out a fire inspector. You should check with them before moving any of these items or debris.
- Some policy holders may be required to make an inventory of damaged personal property showing in detail the quantity, description and amount you paid for the items.
- Do not dispose of your property until it is included on an itemized list and okayed for disposal by your insurance company’s adjuster. This will insure that you are properly reimbursed for your losses.
- It’s the owner’s responsibility to hire the restoration contractor. You have the right to use the contractor of your choice for the insurance repairs on your home. This is a state law. A qualified restoration contractor will be able to write a standardized line item estimate detailing all of the room sizes with the square footage of drywall, paint, carpeting, framing repairs etc. for each room. This will insure that the value of the repairs is correct and the repairs can be done to your satisfaction. Consult with your insurance company before starting the repairs to your home.
Q. Why are windows broken or holes cut in the roof?
A. As a fire burns, it moves upward then outward. Breaking the windows and/or cutting holes in the roof (called ventilation) slows the damaging outward movement, helps remove dangerous heat and blinding smoke that obscures the actual fire, and enables firefighters to fight the fire more efficiently. The result of this action is less damage to the structure in the long run.
Q. Why are holes cut in walls?
A. This is done so that the fire department is absolutely sure that the fire has been completely extinguished.
Q. What about rekindles?
A. Under normal circumstances, the fire department will remain on site long enough to insure that the fire has been completely extinguished.
Q. Is it possible to obtain a copy of the fire report?
A. In most localities, a fire report is a public document and is available at the fire department.
Help is available through several organizations to help guide you through these difficult times.
- Salvation Army
- American Red Cross
- Religious organizations
- United Way
- Non-Profit crisis counseling centers.
If you are searching for pets that have escaped a fire and become lost during rescue efforts contact the animal services in your county or city for assistance. Notify your neighbors and give them a written description of your pet and a phone number to call. If your pet is in need of emergency medical assistance contact an animal emergency clinic. If your pet is in need of a place to stay contact your bet for a recommendation or a pet kennel service. If your pet could not be saved and you are ready to think about a new one, please visit your local animal shelter. If you are simply not ready to think about adopting a pet you can still visit your local shelter. The animals are always glad to see you.
Important places to call regarding your situation and or relocation
- If you have a cell phone available, contact your home phone provider to have the home number transferred to the cell phone.
- Your insurance agent/company
- Your mortgage company (inform them of the fire)
- Your family and friends
- Your employer
- Your child’s school
- Your post office
- Any delivery services
- Your fire and police departments
- Your utility companies
Call a Qualified Restoration Company
A restoration company specializes in the repair of fire & water damaged structures.
These companies can provide a range of services that may include some or all of the following:
- Securing the site against further damage
- Estimating structural damage
- Repairing structural damage
- Estimating the cost to repair or renew items of personal property
- Packing, transportation, and storage of household items
- Securing appropriate cleaning and repair subcontractors
- Storing cleaned & repaired items until needed.
Income & Property Tax Information
Copies of your tax returns can be obtained from the IRS Center where you filed or your accountant.
Check with an accountant or the Internal Revenue Service about special benefits for people recovering from a fire loss. You may also be entitled to a property tax discount. This would be for the time period when you cannot occupy or use the property. Check with your local tax assessor’s office regarding this matter.
Important List to make
- Emergency Phone
- Poison Control Phone
- Doctors Phone
- Home Insurance Company Phone
- Home Insurance policy number
- Mortgage Company Phone
- Mortgage loan number
- Medical policy number
- Auto policy Insurance Company
- Gas/Fuel Company
- Credit card Company
- American Red Cross
- Shelter / Assistance
- Work Numbers
Store this information in a secure place. Once you are settled make sure to keep a copy of this at another location.
Replacing Important Documents & Records
- Driver’s license, auto registration
- Bank books (checking, savings, etc.)
- Insurance policies
- Military discharge papers
- Birth, death and marriage certificates
- Divorce papers
- Social Security or Medicare cards
- Credit cards
- Titles to deeds
- Stocks and bonds
- Medical records
- Income tax records
- Citizenship papers
- Prepaid burial contract
- Animal registration papers
- Mortgage papers
Handle burned money as little as possible. Attempt to encase each bill or portion of a bill in plastic wrap for preservation. If money is only half-burned or less (if half or more is still intact), you can take the remainder to your regional Federal Reserve Bank for replacement. As your bank for the nearest one.
If you can mail the burned or torn money by “registered mail, return receipt requested” to:
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Office of Currency Standards
P.O. Box 37048
Washington, DC 20013
Mutilated or melted coins can be taken to your regional Federal Reserve Bank or mailed by “registered mail, return receipt requested to:
PO Box 400
Philadelphia, PA 19105
If your U.S. Savings Bonds have been destroyed or mutilated, you must obtain Department of Treasury
Form PD F 1048 (I) from your bank of http://www.ustreas.gov and mail it to:
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of Public Debt
Saving Bonds Operations
PO Box 1328
Parkersburg, WV 26106-1328