Homes may be unsafe to enter after a fire. Find out about how to safely access and clean up your home, and what to wear when you enter your home.
After a fire in your home, it may no longer be structurally sound and can be very dangerous to enter. Walls, roofs and ceilings can give way without warning and floors or stairs may not be as stable as they appear.
It is important to consider if a building inspector is required to declare the building safe to enter.
Your insurance company may contact a building inspector for you, depending on your level of insurance, or your local governments building inspector may be able to help.
If fire has damaged the inside of your house, some cleaning will probably be required.
Check with the Fire Officer, Fire Investigation Officer or Police Officer in charge as to when the clean-up process can start.
If a fire investigation or evaluation is underway, there may be some areas you’ll not be able to access to clean.
You should also check with your insurance company to see if your policy allows for commercial cleaners.
It is important to consider any hazardous materials that may have been exposed to or damaged by fire or water. Before you do any cleaning up of your property, contact your local governments to get advice on the removal or cleaning up of:
When you enter your home after a fire, wear a face mask, long sleeves and boots.
Taking these steps can help to avoid injury and infections like tetanus from glass shards, corrugated iron and rubble.
Fire can destroy homes in a matter of minutes. Find out what you can do if your home is badly damaged, made non-liveable, or destroyed by fire.
If everything in your house has been destroyed by fire and/or your home is non-liveable, you may be able to get assistance with emergency accommodation and essentials like clothing and food.
If you’re insured, check with your insurance company to see what they can help you with through your policy. After hours phone numbers should be available.
If you’re not insured, you should reach out to family or friends or contact the following services for assistance:
If parts of your home have not been destroyed and it is safe to enter, you may want to get the following items:
Remember to check with your insurance company before removing any items.
When the Fire Officer in charge of an incident can’t find out what started the fire they may call in a Fire Investigation Officer.
If someone has been seriously injured or died in the fire the Police will also attend.
It is the responsibility of the Fire Investigation Officer or Police Officer to make sure your house is secure during the investigation. They will put barrier tape around your home or property, so people do not enter, as it may not be safe and could compromise the investigation.
If you need to go into your home in this situation, a Police Officer or Fire Investigation Officer may go with you.
Once the investigation is complete you’ll be able to access your home.
If you’re the owner of the property you need to notify your insurance company as soon as possible.
They’ll send a representative to estimate the cost of damage and determine a settlement figure.
If you’re a tenant and have contents insurance, in addition to telling your landlord or agent about the fire, you should also contact your insurance company.
You’ll need to organise repairs to your house yourself but remember to ask family, friends and your community for help.
When the emergency services have finished their work, your property will be handed back to you.
If you’re the owner of the property it is your responsibility to secure your house while you wait for the insurance assessment to be completed.
Your insurance company will provide you with advice and if a representative is in attendance, they can organise a contractor to make your home secure.
If you have any further security related queries, talk to your local police station.
Utilities such as gas, electricity and water are likely to have been shut off or disconnected during the fire, for safety reasons.
The suppliers of your power, water and gas will need to send a qualified tradesperson to inspect and repair any damage to your services and arrange for them to be reconnected.
If you’re insured, your insurance company can arrange for these services to be reconnected.
If you’re not insured, you will need to organise for these services to be reconnected yourself by phoning each supplier and tradesperson.
Experiencing a house fire can be a traumatic experience. It is completely normal to feel psychological and emotional distress.
Seeking assistance is not a sign of weakness, it is another strategy that will help you recover. Consider seeking professional help if you continue to experience strong reactions more than two weeks after the fire.
Most people will recover over time with the support of family and friends. However, after a crisis it is often easier to talk to someone who is not involved in the situation and is trained to listen.