What to do after the fire
Now that the fire is out, there are a few things you need to know. Here is a check list to follow:
Step 1 - Securing the site
- Protect the fire site from any further damage by weather, theft or vandalism. Do not leave the site unsecured.
- If you are the owner it is your responsibility to see that openings are covered against rain and entry. Make sure outside doors to the property can be locked and secured. Fire and Rescue NSW will help secure the premises until responsibility can be handed over to the occupier or insurance company.
- If you are the occupier, contact your real estate agent or landlord and inform them of the fire. If you cannot contact them and you need professional assistance in boarding the premises, a general contractor or fire damage restoration firm can help. Check your telephone directory.
- If you plan to leave the site, try to remove any valuables remaining in the building.
- Contact your own insurance agent to report the loss.
Step 2- Cautions
- Household wiring which may have been water damaged should be checked by a licensed electrician before power is turned back on.
- Check for structural damage caused by the fire as roofs and floors may be weakened. The local Council's Building Inspector may be able to help.
- Food, drink and medicines exposed to heat, smoke or soot may be discarded in the appropriate manner.
- Refrigerators and freezers left unopened will hold their temperature for a short time. However do not attempt to refreeze thawed items.
- Fire and Rescue NSW will call for the services of the local gas, fuel and electricity suppliers to disconnect services before they leave the site.
- If a utility (gas, electricity or water) is disconnected, it is your responsibility to have the services checked and reconnected by a licensed trade person. Do not attempt to reconnect the service yourself.
- Start collecting receipts for any money you spend. These are important because you can use them to show the insurance company what money you have spent relating to your fire loss and also verifying losses claimed.
Step 3 - Insurance Claims
- Make personal contact with the insurance claims manager.
- Advise the claims manager of loss or damage and give them a forwarding address and telephone number if the circumstances have forced you to leave the damaged fire building.
- The sooner the insurance company is alerted, the quicker the insurance claim can be processed, as the company has to alert the insurance assessor to carry out the inspection.
- Try to form an inventory, as soon as possible, of household items either inside or outside the buildings which have been damaged by fire. The inventory of damaged items will further speed the claim when the loss assessor makes contact. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after the inventory is made by the insurance assessor.
- Should you be unable to recall the name of your insurance company, contact the Insurance Council of Australia [external link].
Step 4 - Leaving your home
- If you have to leave your home because the fire has left it unsafe, contact the local police. They can keep an eye on the property in your absence.
- Check with your insurance company to find out whether you are entitled to stay in hotel as part of a temporary housing clause in your policy, or how soon you might get an advance on your eventual insurance claim settlement.
- Provided it is safe to do so, try to locate the following to take with you:
- Identification such as wallets and passports.
- Vital medicines, such as blood pressure regulating drugs or insulin.
- Eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetic devices or personal aids.
- Valuables such as credit cards, cheque-books, insurance policies, savings account books, money and jewellery.
Notify others of your new/temporary address
- Your employer.
- Family and friends.
- Your children's schools.
- Australia Post. Have them either hold or forward your mail, depending on the length of time you expect to be relocated. This can be done online here [external link].
- Service NSW for vehicles, licencing and other State government departments. Access some of their services online here [external link].
- Banking and other financial institutions.
- Gas, electricity, water, telephone and internet providers.
- The Police, if the fire is under investigation.
In the meantime, do not contract anyone for estimating, making inventories or repair services without contacting your insurance company first.
Emergency accommodation and Counselling
Fire and Rescue NSW has the services of a full-time Salvation Army Chaplain, who can provide counselling and help you find emergency accommodation. The Salvation Army Chaplain services are free and available 24 hours a day. Telephone: (02) 9265 2736
For general inquiries call the Fire and Rescue NSW's Fire Safety Division on (02) 9742 7400
In an Emergency Call Triple Zero (000)
A collaboration of Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service, ACT Fire Brigade and ACT Rural Fire Service.