A fire in your home is a traumatic and frightening experience. Moving on from a fire can seem like an enormous task, and it is. Picking up the pieces and putting your home and life back together is not easy, but you must do it. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task, though; knowing where to start is the most import thing to do after a house fire. Take a breath, gather your composure, and get to work. It will keep your mind off the tragedy and get you and your family back to normalcy.

Find Somewhere to Stay

If there is extensive damage to your home and it is uninhabitable, you’ll need somewhere to stay. A house fire is traumatic for everyone, so get some rest and plan the next steps. Reach out to family and friends first, and then a hotel. If none of those options are available, there are disaster relief agencies willing to help. Even if it’s only for one night, take some time to cope and regain focus.

Call the Police

Odds are that the police will already be aware of the fire, especially if the fire department was on the scene. If not, give them a call. If the fire was not an accident and you don’t know how it started, you absolutely want them involved.  They may want to investigate to find the culprit and make a report. Empty homes are targets for looters and squatters, so the police will keep an eye on things until you can return and board it up.

Contact the Insurance Company

File a claim with your insurance company immediately. The faster you get them involved, the sooner they can line up repairs and get you back home. Make a list of what was damaged or destroyed in the fire so you can replace it. Take plenty of pictures as well. Document everything you can and give it to an insurance adjuster. That way, your claim will sail through the process.

Salvage What You Can

After the fire department, police, and insurance company have seen the damage, it’s time to check out what’s left. Go into the house and start finding out what was destroyed, what can be salvaged, and what needs fixing.

Start Planning Repairs

Examine the area that the fire covered and plan how to fix it. There might be water damage if the fire department used hoses. There will be smoke and fire damage to repair, of course. You will want to get rid of the smell of smoke that will be all over the house. The process will not be fast, so be patient and make sure everything is repaired properly.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.