A List: What You’ll Need After a Fire or Disaster

Financially, I had it better off than many fire survivors. I hadn’t updated my insurance for way too long, but I was insured. Friends housed me. The Red Cross helped out. My insurance put me up at hotels a few nights. And, as of last night, after 66 days and 65 nights of being a fire refugee, I finally slept in my new, furnished home. And it’s a houseboat with a hot tub and sauna. Life’s not so bad.

If your house burns down, surround yourself with water next.
If your house burns down, surround yourself with water next.

If you’re ever in a fire or disaster, or you know someone who is, here’s a list of what they might want/need:

Within the First Hour
A shower
Socks
Underwear
Daytime clothes if they had to run out at night
Shoes
Weather-appropriate clothes (rain jackets, etc)
A healthy, easy-to-digest meal
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Feminine supplies
Makeup
Offers to take care of any pets
Babysitting

A few notes: Anything new or challenging is an added stress for a survivor. If possible, ask what brand they wore, ate or used before the disaster, and try to replicate it if possible, especially for children. I went back to my favorite store and found a shirt still for sale that I’d owned before the fire, on sale for $10. It wasn’t even in my size, but I bought it anyways. And cried when I did.

Within the First Day
A place to sleep
A way to communicate instantly if they’ve lost their phone or computer: a borrowed internet-outfitted smart phone would be perfect
Portable, easy-to-digest food (my meal for days was Wheat Thins and turkey jerky, but trail mix, dried fruit or energy bars would work)
Help running errands
Exact replacements of children’s favorite toys or books
Toiletry bag: small bottles of soap, shampoo and conditioner; a razor; facial cleanser; sunscreen

Rebuilding: Two Weeks to Several Months Later
Even if you have insurance, it’s depressing to have to start from absolute scratch. Certain donated used items are fantastic — I like many of my donated clothes better than my old clothes — but I’ve read blogs where people were given broken toasters and chipped plates and were left feeling even worse.
Scissors
Work supplies (laptop, printer, power cords, power strips)
Kitchen supplies — think about the not-so-obvious, too: silverware, knives, spices, cutting boards
Cleaning supplies
Bedding and towels

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