House Fire Checklist: What to Do and What Not to Do After a House Fire

Matchsticks made into little home that was lit on fire

Home fires are identified by the Red Cross as the most common disaster in the USA. This means that your house is more likely to have a fire than have a tree fall on it. Yet in spite of how relatively common house fires are, it does not make a fire incident at your home any easier to bear.

The main issue with a fire outbreak in the home is the pervasive destruction of the event and how the effect of a fire can linger long after the flames have been put out. The best way to deal with a house fire is not to have one at all. Prevention is the best way to fight fires.

But what do you do in the unfortunate event that your home does catch fire? This is a real possibility because electrical malfunction is a leading cause of house fires. And many of these faults originate deep inside the walls of the house and the occupants are often completely unaware of them.

Every home is exposed to the risk of a house fire, no matter how small. This is why it is vital to be ready. And getting ready for emergencies is best done before the emergency happens. Emergency preparedness ensures that if an event happens, you will be able to limit the extent of its damage.

After a house fire, there are a lot of things going through a homeowner’s mind. They are thinking of the physical and emotional wellbeing of their family members. They are contemplating possible financial losses. And they are wondering whether they can salvage some of their belongings.

Under pressure from a fire incident, it is easy to make mistakes. Because they are in a state of distress, people will often take impulsive steps that endanger them, their family, or pets. They may do things that worsen the fire damage to their property and make restoration efforts harder.

This is why it is important to know what to do and what not to do following a fire in your home. Things that appear like minor actions can become big mistakes that cost you in major ways. Errors can affect your insurance claims and expose you, your family, and what’s left of your home to more danger.

The checklist below outlines the important steps to take after a house fire. It will help you secure lives and property, and also let you get the most from your insurance policy.

What to Do After a House Fire

  • Contact your family members or friends, inform them of the incident and let them know you are safe.
  • Make sure your family is okay; do your best to calm and reassure them.
  • Attend to your pets and check them for any signs of trauma.
  • Contact your insurance agent and inform them of the fire. They may want to ask some questions about the incident. You do not have to answer immediately. If you are not sure of the answer to a question, do not answer. This is important.
  • Call the utility providers, inform them of the fire and if necessary, have them shut off the utilities supply to your home.
  • Call your restoration company; doing this early is critical. The damage to your property does not stop when the flames go out. Starting restoration as soon as possible is important and finding a reputable and competent restoration company is even more important.
  • Enter your home only when it is safe to do so. Talk to the head fire department official and get their permission to re-enter the home.
  • If allowed to re-enter your home, walk around carefully and take detailed pictures and notes of the damage.
  • Have the restoration company present when you do this to avoid further damage that could make restoration impossible.
  • Retrieve valuables, heirlooms, and important documents such as birth certificates, medical records, financial records, and passports.
  • Create an inventory of your belongings and sort the damaged from undamaged items. Keep all the damaged items.
  • Retrieve the prescription medication of all family members. Do not use them, this is only so you can get replacements.
  • Have all retrieved items checked for smoke damage to keep them from further deteriorating.
  • Inform your local police department that your house will be vacant, to prevent looting.
  • Notify your children’s school.
  • Get the fire report, read, and file it.
  • Start the claims process with your insurer. If the fire was caused by a wildfire, apply for Fire Management Assistance.
  • Note that your home’s exposure to risk of damage is amplified after a house fire. There is risk of water damage from fire hoses, the possibility of rain getting in through a broken window or roof, and a greater chance of mold growth. To deal with this, the home should be thoroughly dried with drying equipment and then tarped and boarded up to secure it.

What Not to Do After a Fire

  • Do not enter your home unless you are wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Do not try to wash fire residue from the home.
  • Do not try to use any fire damaged items.
  • Do not eat any food that was exposed to the heat.
  • Do not try to use the home’s electricity until it has been checked.
  • Do not turn on electrical devices until they have been checked.
  • Do not turn on the utilities until it is safe to.
  • Do not move a vehicle that is fire-damaged.
  • And lastly, do not demolish any part of your home until you have confirmation from your insurance company that they have completed their investigations into the origin of the fire.

We’re hoping you will not get to use this checklist, but it’s best to be prepared should this event happen.