Planning for the unknown

When disaster struck London in 1666, the first thoughts of the residents were to save loved ones, help neighbours and try to salvage as many of their belongings as possible. Samuel Pepys recalled in his diary how he sent a cart with all his money to a safe location, well out of reach of the flames, before digging a pit in his garden to bury his best wines and cheese! Three hundred and fifty years later and our priorities are much the same. New research by comparethemarket.com, who spoke to two thousand adults, showed we’re equally keen to save even the most obscure knick-knacks.
jewllery

Save the knick-knacks

From sporting trophies to an Olympic torch, wedding dresses to engagement rings, it seems we all have similar priorities when asked what we would save first in a fire. A surprise to some of us perhaps, is that more men than women – 2.9% versus 1.7% – said they would save their jewellery. Some of you would even try to save your childhood teddy first!

Family first

However, it’s reassuring to know an overwhelming majority (62%) put their family’s safety first. It wasn’t just our human loved ones who occupy our thoughts. Britain’s reputation as a nation of animal lovers was confirmed when pets came second in our responses. Dogs underlined their credentials as man’s best friend, edging their feline rivals in our thoughts, by polling substantially more responses than cats. 

safety first

A nationwide problem

Fires can clearly happen anywhere, but concern over damage from storms and floods is a growing issue nationwide. In Scotland, 19% of most recent claims for building and contents insurance in recent years were for storm damage, while 11% of most recent claims in Yorkshire were for flood damage – the record nationwide.
As you might imagine, these regions also report that they’re more likely to take out contents insurance for their possessions than others. However London and the North East in fact report greater increases in concern, with 19 and 20% respectively reporting they are more likely to take out a policy now than they were five years ago.

Would you know what to do?

When faced with a fire, flood or storm, 38% of us admit we wouldn’t have the first idea of what to do in such a situation. Would you know what the next steps are once the emergency services have been called out and helped make your home safe? Read our tips below to find out how you can prepare yourself for such an incident and download and keep our step-by-step guides which cover the aftermath of fire, flood or storm damage to your property. No one wants to think about these things but sometimes it’s good to be prepared. 

What to do after a fire

When you think of a house fire, you may imagine the complete destruction of your home. But very few house fires get so out of control that our lives are in danger, and they’re usually caught before a lifetime’s possessions go up in smoke.

Download our guide to 'What to do after a fire'.

What to do after a flood

We all know the damage that water can do and a flood is everyone’s worst nightmare as it’s one of the most disruptive things that can happen to your home.

Download our guide to 'What to do after a flood'.

What to do after a storm

The UK may not be known for extreme weather, but every now and then nature sends us a surprise and your home may be caught in a storm that you couldn’t have prepared for.

Download our guide to 'What to do after a storm'.

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Our guide to dodging disaster

There’s an old saying: perfect planning prevents poor performance. It can’t be helped if your home is hit by a something like a fire, flood or storm but there are a few measures you can take – especially if you live in an area prone to flooding or extreme weather – that can limit the impact and disruption to your life. Here’s some ideas that could help you out…

Know what your insurance covers

Every policy is different, and you don’t want to find out what your contents or building insurance doesn’t cover when you need it most. Is there a ceiling on pay-outs? Will it substitute new for old? Will you need to specifically insure particularly valuable items? These are all things you need to know so always make sure you read the T&Cs carefully before taking out a policy.

Take pictures of your expensive items

This might sound strange, but it’s a good idea to take photos of those pricier items in your house to prove that you owned them if anything went wrong. Insurers will sometimes ask for evidence of those valuable belongings to make sure they’re replacing the same, or equal value, items. Insurance providers sometimes expect you to have valued your items within a specific timeframe too so it’s a good idea to check what they require in their T&Cs to make sure you’ve followed the right process.

To make the process a lot smoother, it’s always best to have some proof (you can share receipts or valuation certificates too). Remember to inform your insurer of any big new purchases when you make them too so that they’re covered by your policy.

photo
contact list

Have a contact list

Everybody knows to dial 999 – but what about your insurance company? Your local council? Your amenity suppliers? Your vet? Electricians? Plumbers? It’s a good idea to consolidate all the possible contacts who you may need for assistance into one easy-to-find document.

Get a ‘fire safe’ box

Put your most important keepsakes, family photos and important legal documents in a ‘fire safe’ box that will keep them safe from damage in the event of a fire or serious damage to your house – most will be waterproof, too.

fire safe box
contigency plan

Contingency planning for your dependents

An incident like a flood or fire can be deeply disorientating and distressing for any vulnerable people or pets you may be responsible for, so you should have a contingency plan for how to evacuate them should the worst happen – especially if their mobility is impaired.

Get a smoke alarm… and make sure it works

These little devices really do save lives: place yours in a hallway or corridor, and don’t forget to test it regularly. The British Fire Service recommends changing them at least every ten years. Early warning is the most important factor in avoiding a problem turning into a catastrophe.

smoke alarm
cloud storage

Save your data

In the modern world, more and more of our items of sentimental value – especially photos – are stored digitally. Hard drives are fragile things, so if you want to make sure your data is safe, it might be a good idea to store everything in the cloud. 

Know how to turn everything off

If your home is severely damaged, the things that sustain our lives – electricity, gas and water mains supplies – can become liabilities, or even dangerous to both you and first responders. If you’re in a vulnerable area, you should know how to turn these off. 

dripping tap

A few simple steps...

As you can see, it really takes very little effort to make sure that you can avoid the worst effects of a fire, flood or storm. A few simple steps can prevent a problem from spiralling into a crisis – so why not take them, and be prepared, just like the scouts told you to. 

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Pipe burst due to storm damage

Ian, 35, Birmingham

 

“The main hassle is waiting for everything to dry out. There simply isn’t a quick way of doing it, and the smell hangs around a long time. You need to budget a lot more time than you think – especially if you have young children. We had workmen and electricians coming in for months on end. ”

burst pipe

“Our insurance company paid the bill for the plumber and sent round assessors who went through the damage – this all happened pretty much immediately. They didn’t argue over every item, they were quite understanding. They offered to repair a lot of the furnishings, but we put that cost towards new ones instead. They also paid the bill for dryers to be left inside the house to air it out and even paid for the electricity bill to cover this.”

House flooded

Livvy, 42, Cumbria

 

“The water came underneath the floorboards and lifted the whole floor. We were actually only ankle deep in water but the floor had risen so much our heads were touching the ceiling. We had to be rescued through our living room window by lifeboat.”

flooded house

“Our selected policy was excellent. Because of the rescue we just had the clothes we were wearing and no banks or non-essential shops were open because the area was under water. They sent an agent with some cash so we could buy things. The insurance company also paid for us to stay in a holiday home for six months, which was the time it took to get our house habitable again.”

“I would strongly recommend you take your time when you send off your claims forms. It will be tempting to rush the form off so you can start getting some of the goods back, but you can’t add items after the cheque has been sent out. You should keep a digital copy of your insurance documents as well.”

House fire

Eric, 61, London


“My loss adjustor was generally great – paying for me to live at a friends for ten weeks, repairing all damage and buying me new clothes. They rebuilt the house, repaired the damage to a high standard and allowed me choice on a lot more decisions than I expected.”

fire damage

“My mistake was not updating my policy for contents. I’d signed up for a policy of £25,000 for the whole house some years before and had not adjusted it to include accrued items. When I claimed for my bedroom alone this came to over £25,000.”