About two weeks ago my father suffered the loss of his house through a fire. Through the experience I realized some things that I have never thought about before, but which were key for us. Let me share these with you:

1. Insurance

You have to insure yourself, both for the structure and contents. Think you have a bunch of junk in your house that’s not worth anything? That may well be true, but you still need to replace the items when they are lost or damaged. To save money on premiums, it may be worth your while to only insure the items that are expensive to replace, such as furniture, big appliances and computers. The balance for replacement purchases will then have to come from your emergency fund.Property Fire

2. Have an escape plan

Here in South Africa, we have a lot of crime. Most houses have burglar bars on every opening that someone can possibly come into the house. The drawback is that if you need to get out for some reason, you won’t be able to. Always make sure to know exactly how to get out in an emergency.

3. Keep all your keys in one place

When my dad ran out the door, he just scooped up all the keys from the side table as he was leaving the house. He could move the vehicles and open doors of buildings that were not affected.

4. Keep copies of important documents off-property

Wills, copies of identity documents, bank account numbers etc. can all be kept at a safety deposit box at your bank, for example. Also, if at all possible, scan your old pictures and store them electronically. A good way is to use a service such as Dropbox.

5. Let your loved ones know of neighbour’s telephone numbers

You may not have any interaction with the neighbours where you live, but it may be important if you need to find out what is going on. In our instance, we only had the house number and my dad’s celphone number on hand, both of which were in the fire. We suffered through a long, anxious period between when we heard about the fire to when we actually could get hold of someone to find out if my dad was okay.

6. Have some idea of what your insurance contract covers and relevant telephone numbers

One of my dad’s vehicles was damaged as it was moved out of harm’s way. We were calling towing companies to find out how to get the vehicle to the dealer to get it fixed. Halfway through the exercise my sister remembered that the vehicle was insured! After one call to the insurance company everything was organized.

During a traumatic experience like this one, it is very difficult to think rationally. Make it easy on yourself and your family by being prepared.

Do you have any things that you can recommend to get prepared for this kind of traumatic experience? Comments are always welcome…

Kevin Mzansi

Image by: Bruce Berrien

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