Besides normal fire prevention precautions, additional considerations ought to be taken into account.
Before a House Fire
Choose your fire insurance company carefully. Get testimonials from other customers if you can. Find out how individual companies handle claims.
Do not underinsure your home. You may be accused of purposely underinsuring to keep your premium payments low. This can seriously delay or even prevent a full settlement.
Read and be familiar with your insurance policy. What is the responsibility of the insurer and what is the responsibility of the homeowner? Make sure you understand all the clauses referring to both your home and the contents in your home. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. You may need to insure jewelry, art and antiques separately.
Take pictures of your home and its contents. Make two copies and keep one copy elsewhere, in a safety deposit box or at a friend’s house.
Find out if your community offers emergency social services for fire victims. If you suffer a total loss you may leave your home with only the clothes on your back. These services generally provide a place to stay for 72 hours plus meal and clothing allowances.
During a House Fire
If you are in the house get out immediately and do not go back inside. The impulse to rescue your possessions will be very strong. Even if you don’t see flames, smoke inhalation can be fatal.
Annual fire deaths in the US average 2,740.
Use your cell phone to call 911 from outside your home. If the phone is still in your house, leave it and phone from a neighbor’s.
Tell firemen about anything that may explode and become a dangerous projectile, such as a barbecue propane tank.
After a House Fire
Report the fire to your insurance agent as soon as possible so they can begin processing your claim. Ask for a copy of your insurance policy. You will consult it often in the coming days and weeks and your copy may have been lost in the fire.
Report the fire to your mortgage company and ask them for a copy of any appraisal of your home they may have on file. The appraisal with its accompanying house diagram and square footage information will be a starting point in determining the value of your loss.
Begin compiling a list of the contents in your home. Refer to saved pictures and add any purchases made after the photos were taken. You cannot claim for replacement of any itmes you do not remember so it is important to start your list as soon as possible.
A house fire is devastating but you will feel more in control if you are prepared.