House Fires and Lost Property - Preparing for the Unexpected

Picture losing everything you own - your house and your belongings - all due to a house fire. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), estimates that $7.2 billion annually goes into reclaiming direct property damage.

Imagine trying to remember what was in every drawer, every shelf, of your entire house. It’s an impossible afterthought! The Kendall No-Spin Zone says, “It’s a horrible situation to look at a room and have difficulty identifying common household contents because all have been broken beyond recognition, melted, covered with soot or completely vaporized with only a pile of ash remaining as evidence of what once was the homeowner’s personal belongings.” This puts the homeowner at a very difficult disadvantage when it comes to dealing with the insurance company.

The process of collecting inventory after a house fire takes more than just weeks of time, it takes months! It’s easy to just hope that this would/could never happen to you or your family, but the truth is, almost everyone knows someone that has experienced a house fire. This happens to so many families, you can make sure your family is covered by taking these necessary steps

  1. Start by taking pictures of all the rooms in your home, from different angles, using a high-quality camera or smartphone. Be sure to photograph inside cabinets and drawers, and include the basement and garage.
  2. Next, use the digital record as an itemized list of your personal property. At a minimum keep the pictures in a secure location that can be accessed in the event your home is destroyed. Ideally, though, you would use the pictures along with an inventory list that includes purchase dates, costs and serial numbers. Some homeowner insurance companies provide free inventory storage programs and online companies provide robust programs for a fee.
  3. Every year, update asset changes and add any information regarding new inventory.

Using these steps will not prevent a house fire from happening, but it will make the process afterward, so much easier knowing you were prepared.

You can contact your insurance company to see if this is a service they provide, as well as other companies you can find online that specialize in inventory management. We all hope this would never be our reality, however, there are ways to help you prepare for a disaster, such as this one.

Content prepared by Annie Albrecht, Worley Erhart-Graves Financial Advisors