The First 6 Things to Do After a Fire at Your Rented Home or Apartment
A fire in your rented home can occur everywhere and for a multitude of reasons. But the risk can be heightened if you share a structure with others, such as by living in an apartment building, condo complex, or in a duplex. In such a situation, you’re not only responsible for maintaining safe practices at your own place and teaching your own children to avoid fire risk. You’re also subject to neighbors’ mistakes who might smoke in bed or leave food unattended on the stove. Or their children, who could start a fire by playing with matches.
In addition, the structure could have wiring issues or other fire threats you know nothing about since you don’t own the building.
And depending on where you live in California, out-of-control wildfires could pose an additional and too common reality. As the result of climate change, the state has experienced many of its most severe and damaging wildfires within just the last couple of years.
With that, let’s explore the first six actions we think you should take to get back on your feet quickly after going through the tragedy of a house fire in your rented living space.
1. Get Out!
Lives are tragically lost when fire victims waste time putting the blaze out by themselves or saving possessions that can be easily replaced. All that really matters is your family at this time. And household pets if it’s possible to save them without putting your own life or that of others in danger.
2. Bring Your Packed Valuables
At first, this might seem to contradict the advice first given about ignoring personal possessions and simply getting your family to safety in a fire. But there’s not a contradiction since you have certain items that will serve critical needs within the first few hours and days following your evacuation. Things that you need to maintain your own safety and to start back as quickly and smoothly as possible on the road to recovery.
This might include eyeglasses and pharmaceuticals, a cell phone charger and an extra phone, heavier clothing for cooler months, and your rental insurance paperwork and contact information. There might also be sentimental objects, such as photo albums, you don’t want to lose. If possible, keep all of these items packed in a single suitcase or duffel bag and stored in a closet by the door or in some similar space where they can be grabbed on your way out.
3. Reconnect with the Family at Your Safe Meeting Place
If the fire starts in the middle of the night, the chances are good that you and your family are all together. But if it occurs during the day, or your kids are sleeping over at friends’ houses, you might all have to reconnect somewhere as close as possible but a safe distance from the fire. So this is a conversation you should have with your entire family regarding where you will all meet if you’re not together when tragedy strikes.
4. Start to Place Those Important Phone Calls
You’ll call the fire department first if that hasn’t already been done by yourself or others. But what we’re really talking about here is that initial contact with the company that handles your renter’s insurance.
Your policy and business cards or other contact information should already be with you, along with your other valuables, so start initiating contact. If it’s a wildfire causing the destruction, hundreds or even thousands of other people might be placing similar calls, so you want to make sure you reach your agent as soon as you can.
That could be important because you need to find a place to live temporarily as soon as possible. If it’s a wildfire endangering a large population, your local government might not have had time to coordinate mass emergency housing in churches, schools, or community centers. And it’s preferable to have a motel or other accommodations offering a greater sense of privacy for your family if possible.
5. Read Your Policy
You’ll have plenty to do over the next few days, so you might only get a few minutes at a time to reacquaint yourself with your renter’s insurance policy, but it will be time well spent. Now that you need to know those details try to find out what benefits you have when you need them most.
6. Keep All the Receipts
Depending on your insurance details, your insurer might pay for your meals as well as for your accommodations and other expenses while burned out of your living space. You might not be sure what’s covered and what’s not, but keep all receipts and let your independent insurance agent help you figure out which receipts can be part of your claim.
Call Cost-U-Less for California Renters Insurance
At Cost-U-Less, we’ll help you find affordable renters insurance that will provide financial security and maintain your family’s peace of mind—even and especially) during the worst of times. Start your quote online, over the phone, or at one of our offices near you.