Today we’re going to answer the question, what do you do if your house is on fire? So the first thing you want to do, of course, is to call 911. Make sure everybody’s out of the house safely. But what is the second step, and when should you contact your insurance agent?
When should you call your insurance agent?
After calling 911 and we advise calling your agent as soon as you possibly can. Obviously, you want to protect your family and protect as much of your stuff as you can, but you want to engage your insurance agent as fast as possible. We pride ourselves on coming out to help our clients. You buy coverage from us and our commitment is to provide a service that is going to exceed your expectation.
Once you’re out and the fire department’s there, what is the next step?
The best thing to do is to go through an example. A few months ago, I had a phone call on a Saturday and it was one of our insureds. And he said, “Delbert, my house is burning down. It’s totally engulfed in
flames. My wife and I are out, we’re safe. We’re now sitting in a neighbor’s house and what do we do?”
And so within 45 minutes, I was at the scene. Typically, there’s a lot of emotion. Everything that you’ve collected, everything that is yours over the past, however many years, is gone. And oftentimes it is a total loss and it’s devastating, and customers are emotional and they have no idea the next step in the process.
The most common question is “Well, where do I go? I don’t have any place to stay.”
There’s a provision to your policy called additional living expenses. And what that entails is it will immediately rent you a hotel or an Airbnb for some period of time. The goal is to get you relocated as quickly as possible. And it will pay all of those expenses. The insurance company will normally give you some type of stipend to go out and buy clothing. You have nothing. Everything you own is gone. And so there is coverage that’s going to put you up in a temporary resident until your home is rebuilt.
How do I start replacing all of my things?
This is probably the most difficult part of the process. A claim of that magnitude is not easy the insurance company meets with you and says, “Can you list everything that you own that was destroyed in that house.” It can be a lot and how do you remember everything? The insurance company is not trying to pinch you or take advantage of you, or not treat you fairly. But you’re the only one that can reconstruct what you lost in your home.
The insurance company actually uses a special service that comes in to help you work through everything. They go room to room and really try to mentally have you go through closets and so forth.
What we recommend our customers do, is to go around periodically and take videos and pictures of each room in their home. That way if you do have a fire you will have everything documented and it will make the process much easier.
How long does it take to start rebuilding my house?
I would say that there can typically be a delay. This house fire that we had a few months ago, it was caused by a generator. And so the insurance company said, “Don’t touch the site. We want to send an investigator in to determine if that generator was faulty that caused the fire.” Because then the insurance company would take care of its policyholder and then possibly pursue a responsible party, in this case, the manufacturer of the generator.
Do they rebuild by home exactly how it was before the fire?
The obligation of the insurance company is to replace it the way it was the day it went down. They will use extensive construction estimate software and rebuild using current materials, current labor rates to rebuild the house. They’ll say to you, “Mr. and Mrs. Jones, here’s the reconstruction cost. To reconstruct the house the way it was, will cost $400,000. And that’s what we will offer you in the settlement of replacing your home.” And then at that point, you have the opportunity to change it, upgrade it, expand it, etc. but you’ll never get more than the replacement cost value that they determine to exist at the time of the loss.
We’ve had some recent fires, unfortunately. But when that happens to you, you want to make sure you’re in good hands with your insurance agent and your insurance company. The process can be overwhelming so it’s helpful to have an agent and insurance company that you know and trust.
At Susquehanna, we pride ourselves on making sure the process goes as smoothly as possible and that you get your life back together as quickly as possible.
Hopefully, you will never have to go through it, but again here is the process to go through if you have a house fire:
- Call 911 and make sure you get everyone out safely
- Call your insurance agent
- Secure a comfortable place to stay while your home is reconstructed
- Compile a list of everything you lost in the fire
- Work with the insurance company on the rebuild process and determine what kind of house you are going to rebuild
- Purchase furniture, clothes, and replacements of things you lost
- Move back in!
If you have any questions feel free to reach out via phone at 717-290-7780, in person, or online at www.susquehannains.com. We are an independent agent so we are able to help you find the right homeowners policy that fits your lifestyle. Give us a call for a competitive quote that ensures you are