After The Fire: The First 24 Hours

The fire is out now, and we are sorry for your loss. There are a few things you need to know to help you begin to recover. We would like to help you. Here is a checklist for you to follow.




I. Securing the Site

The site of the fire needs to be protected from further damage by weather, theft, or vandalism. 

    • If you are the owner, it is your responsibility to see that openings are covered against rain and entry and that outside doors can be locked or secured. The fire department will help you with this activity.
    • Contact your insurance agent. He or she must be notified of the fire and may also be able to help you in making immediate repairs.
    • If you plan to leave the site, try to remove any valuables remaining in the building. Do not leave until the site has been secured.
    • If you are a tenant, contact the resident manager, the owner or the owner’s insurance agent. It is the owner’s responsibility to protect against further loss.
    • See that your belongings are secure either within the building or by moving them to another location, such as the home of a relative or friend,
    • Contact your own insurance agent to report loss.

The fire department will contact a local disaster relief agency such as the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, or Contact Ministries if you are in need of temporary housing, food, eyeglasses, or medicines destroyed in the fire.

 II. Cautions

    • Fire can rekindle from hidden, smoldering remains. Be watchful for signs or heat or smoke.
    • Household wiring which may have been water damaged should be checked by an electrician before current is turned back on.
    • Be watchful for structural damage caused by the fire. Roofs and floors may be weakened.
    • Food, beverages, and medicines exposed to heat, smoke, or soot should be discarded.
    • Refrigerators or freezers left unopened will hold their temperature for a short time.
    • The fire department will see that utilities (water, electricity, gas, or heat) are either safe to use, or are disconnected before they leave the site. If a utility is disconnected. contact the utility company or authorized service representative to have the apparatus checked for proper working order, make necessary repairs, and reinstitute service. Do not attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.

Beginning now, get receipts for any money you spend. These receipts are important in showing the insurance company what money you have spent related to your fire loss and also for verifying losses claimed on your federal income tax.

 III. Leaving your Home

    • This may be your decision, or one based on the building inspector’s judgment that the residence is unsafe.
    • Contact the local police. They will keep an eye on the property during your absence.
    • Temporary Housing: Local relief agencies such as the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, or Contact Ministries should be able to help you with temporary housing.
    • If you are insured under a package homeowner’s or tenant’s policy, a section of your coverage may pay for the extra costs of temporary housing such as a hotel. If you are in need of funds, ask your insurance agent about how you might get an advance on your eventual insurance claim settlement.
    • Try to locate the following items to take with you:
      • Identification
      • Vital medicines such as insulin or blood pressure regulating drugs
      • Eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetic devices, etc.
      • Valuables such as credit cards, checkbooks, insurance policies, savings account books, money, jewelry, etc.
    • At this time, do not attempt to open your safe. A safe involved in a fire may hold the intense heat for several hours.
    • Notify the following parties or your relocation:
      • Insurance agent or adjuster
      • Mortgage company. Also inform them of the fire
      • Employer
      • Family and friends
      • Children’s schools
      • Post Office
      • Delivery services such as newspapers
      • Fire or police department, if the fire is under investigation
      • Utility companies; these include telephone, heat, power, water, and trash collection

 IV. Asking Further Questions

    • Your disaster relief service case worker, local fire department, or insurance agent will help you with the many questions you will have in the coming days. In the meantime:
      • Do NOT throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory has been taken.
      • Do NOT contract for estimating, inventorying, or repair services without first consulting with your insurance agent or adjuster. 

For additional assistance, contact your local fire department.

Text reprinted from a brochure by the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal.

Comments are closed.