Sometimes unexpected events happen that can change the way you live forever. We never leave home for work and expect to get in a car wreck, but we wear our seat belts anyway. The likelihood of getting struck by lightning is less than 1 in 3,000, but we seek shelter in a storm, just in case. The odds are we won’t win the Powerball, but we purchase a ticket anyway. The probability of losing your home to a disaster is slim, but shouldn’t you be prepared anyway?
At 26, I was thinking my life was pretty set. I was the proud owner of my first home, a Kentucky log cabin style home tucked away in a beautiful setting with rolling hills and a natural spring-fed creek. Two dogs, Kate and Cloud and a cat named Captain Hook Socks—beloved pets, shared it with me. But then one snowy December evening, life changed for me in a drastic way no one could have predicted. Returning from town, I pulled onto the road home and noticed an unusual glow in the night sky. Thinking the barn lights were left on, I drove closer and the horror of the scene became clear. My home was on fire. Flames wrapped up around the metal roof shooting more than 30 feet in the air. Heat from the fire prevented me from getting close. Exiting my truck, I sank to my knees as the gravity of the situation hit me. The house was engulfed by fire and nothing could be saved, not even Cloud, Kate or Captain Hook Socks.
Thanks to a call from the neighbors, the fire department and others came rushing to help, but it was too late. In what seemed like a brief moment, my home was gone.
The following days were a blur of fire inspectors, insurance agents, and investigators, submitting claims, finding clean clothes and getting rest when I could.
One may not be able to avoid an unfortunate loss like this, but there are preparations that can aid recovery. An insurance claim must be filed and it may be impossible to recall everything you owned, down to your last kitchen plate and old pair of socks.
Photograph or video everything in your home and store in the cloud or on an SD card in a safe place away from your home.
Take an audit on all your belongings and have an idea of the cost to replace/rebuild your home, not just the payoff amount. Do you have enough to cover replacement of your home and possessions?
Where do you keep your important documents? In a fire drawer? Maybe a “fireproof safe”? Be sure you read the fire ratings on such items. The fire was too hot and I lost all of mine in my “fireproof” safe. I learned from the fire that the inside of a deep freezer might be one of the safest places to protect certain items from fire. For example, I lost everything in my safe, but my hamburger was still frozen in my freezer.
Prepare Now. Make a list of all your important household items and keep it somewhere safe. Below are more tips to follow:
- Have a list of phone numbers to your insurance agent and all your different policies that you will need to contact within hours of the event.
- Have some money set aside to quickly buy a change of clothes and food.
- Have pictures of your home, inside and out and of all your belongings, and DO NOT keep them in the home.
- Invest in a high-quality fire safe or safety deposit box to help protect valuable items against a fire or disaster.
- Have your home serviced to check your systems and perform preventive maintenance regularly?
- Replace your smoke alarm batteries every 6 months AND test them.
- Make sure a smoke alarm is in every livable room of the home.
- Don’t set items too close to a fireplace or a furnace that could get hot or catch fire.
- Teach your children what to do in the event of a fire or natural disaster and who to call.
- AND NEVER overload an electrical outlet causing it to overheat and catch fire.
Please take these tips to heart and act on them. Tragic things can happen and you should have a plan.
Today my wife and our two children have a plan, we keep our important items safe, have our home checked and serviced often, and I always keep my deep freezer plugged in and running.
Written By: Hunter Weakley
New Home Consultant – San Antonio