What to do when displaced from a fire

10 things to do after you've been evacuated from a wildfire

When you've been displaced from your home after a wildfire, there are a few things you must do to ensure you're family's well being and chances for full recovery when (and if) you return home.

  1. Stay in touch: As soon as possible, contact your friends and family to let them know you are safe and where you are staying. Facebook is often a critical resource for locating people and keeping everyone abreast of your whereabouts.
  2. Contact your insurance agent: As soon as you are away from danger and somewhat settled into a temporary shelter, contact your insurance agent to let them know you have been evacuated from a wildfire. You don't want to wait and put yourself at the back of the line when it comes to processing your claim, especially if your policy includes provision for temporary housing.  
  3. Keep track of your expenses: Keep all of your receipts for food and lodging while you are displaced from your home. Your insurance policy will likely require them in order to reimburse you.  
  4. Stay in the know: Search the internet, attend town hall meetings, get in contact with others who survived previous wildfires and prepare yourself for the road ahead. 
  5. If you have small children: Keep them close and talk to them as much as you can. Although you are likely just trying to keep it together yourself, remember that your children are experiencing this  trauma as well, and they need your comfort. It may help to turn your focus to their needs during this difficult time.
  6. If you are on special medication: Find someone immediately who can help you get prescriptions filled. You do not want to run out unexpectedly and let your health suffer further damage.
  7. Focus on anything positive you can find: Although this may be the most difficult task, it is also one of the most important for your mental health. If you can get your hands on something positive to read, read it daily and keep your mind focused on something that will keep you going. When you're in a waiting period, such as the immediate time after you've been evacuated yet before you can get settled elsewhere, it's important to seek constructive ways to fill your time and energy. 
  8. Do your research: One productive way to fill time is by researching your options. If you have access to the internet via a smartphone or tablet, research your options for temporary housing, financial recovery, and other services you will need to get your life back on track. If you are covered by homeowner's insurance, know your rights by reading our page about how to file an insurance claim
  9. Know when to return: As tempting as it may be to check on your home - especially if you're unsure if it's still standing - do not return to your home until fire officials say it is safe to do so. Notification that it is safe to return home will be given as soon as possible considering safety and accessibility.
  10. Prepare yourself for your return: Not only should you prepare emotionally for the loss you will likely encounter, but be sure you know how to safely navigate your damaged property. For help, read our page on what to do when returning to a fire damaged property.

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