If you have experienced a fire, you may have questions about what to do next.
After a fire, the firefighter in charge will let you know if it is safe to stay. The local council building inspector may need to assess whether the building is safe.
Sometimes fire can destroy, damage or disconnect gas, electricity, water and telephone or internet lines.
Property owners are responsible for getting these services inspected and repaired. Contact a qualified tradesperson for repairs, and your service provider to arrange re connection.
If the property contains asbestos, you must organise a licensed asbestos removalist to make your property safe.
You can arrange this through your insurance company, or the local council.
You can gain access to your property after emergency services have made the area safe. You are then responsible for the security of the property.
If you live in rental housing you must inform the real estate agent or owner/landlord to secure the home.
Your insurance will be the most important single aspect of recovering from a fire loss.
You must immediately notify your insurance company or insurance broker after a fire.
Follow advice from your insurance company. They will give you advice on protecting against weather damage, theft or vandalism.
The insurance company may refuse to pay losses that occur after the fire incident.
Coordinate with your insurer before contracting for any services. The earlier you notify your insurer, the sooner they can process your claim.
Make an inventory and contact your insurer before throwing away damaged goods.
If the fire officer on scene tells you it is safe to do so, you should enter your home and collect your:
- Identification – driver’s licence, Medicare card, passport
- Insurance contact details and policies
- Credit cards
- Medicines and prescriptions (dispose of medication exposed to heat and smoke)
- Personal aids – mobility aids, glasses, hearing aids, etc.
- Valuables – personal items such as jewellery, photographs, cash, laptops, etc.
- Legal documentation
- Car keys and house keys
- Mobile phone and charger
If you can’t stay at your home, you should consider other options. Check if you can stay with family, friends or neighbours.
Some insurance policies may also cover the cost of accommodation.
Smoke and water can damage your house and contents. Your insurer may arrange cleaning, salvage and removal of damaged items and materials.
Damage to the property often goes beyond what the eye can see.
Smoke and soot can travel into other rooms. It may affect walls, carpet, upholstery, curtains, clothing and any other belongings.
To clean up you should:
- Get the air moving - open windows to ventilate areas, use a fan to circulate air
- Dry wet items as soon as possible
- Take non-washable clothing and curtains to a drycleaner
- Wash regular clothing in warm water with detergent
- Wearing rubber gloves, wash walls, furniture and floors with detergent to remove soot and smoke
- If smoke or water has been near an appliance, get an authorised electrician to check them before using them again.
- Organise somewhere to stay
- Take the personal items you will need
- Contact gas, electricity, water and telephone providers to cancel services
- Cancel all delivery services (e.g. Australia Post for redirect of mail, newspapers)
- Let your important contacts know your new address. This may include your employer, children’s schools, insurance company and neighbours.
- Contact local police. Inform them that there has been a fire at your property and it is vacant.
After a stressful event, strong reactions are normal and very common.
Understanding common feelings, thoughts and behaviours, may help with recovery.
Normal reactions to a stressful event can be either physical or emotional.
Looking after yourself
- Recognise that you have been through a stressful event.
- Following a traumatic event you are more vulnerable to illness and injury – be careful.
- Take care of yourself - get plenty of rest, even if you can’t sleep, eat regular, healthy meals and exercise every day.
- Avoid using alcohol or drugs to cope.
- Make time to relax and to focus on your self-care.
- Keep a routine going.
- Try to resume normal activities as soon as possible (but don’t exert yourself).
- Avoid making major life decisions too soon.
- Spend time with people you care about.
- Express your feelings if you are comfortable doing so. Talking about feelings can help with the recovery process.
Getting support and accepting help
Most people will recover over time with the support of family and friends.
Sometimes distressing events can be difficult to overcome. You should also consider seeking professional help if you:
- feel very distressed, frightened, irritable or jumpy a lot of the time,
- are unable to carry out your normal roles at work, school and/or with your family,
- feel hopeless, despairing and think you can’t go on, or
- are thinking of harming yourself or someone else.
If these reactions continue for more than a month after the event, professional help is recommended.
Where to get help:
Reviewed 25 June 2020