Audrey was sleeping when she smelled smoke. She didn't have a minute to lose. The top floor of her house was engulfed in flames. While she grabbed her children and escaped, her house, furniture and memories went up in smoke.
While home insurance policies cover fire damage, it's important to consider the collateral damage of such an event. Managing a claim and relocating your family for a few months is one thing; losing irreplaceable belongings is another.
Fires make up less than 10% of claims at Desjardins, but just over 30% of the costs. The emotional cost is often incalculable.
"A house fire is a traumatic event. The fear of not getting out or saving your children has a significant psychological shock that can have significant repercussions. And even strictly material loss can have a psychological impact. The place where you live and the objects that surround you are the pillars of your sense of security. Losing them can lead to acute anxiety and a range of fears—especially among children—the sense that something bad is going to happen, vulnerability and sadness similar to grief. It may be difficult to get back to your activities and get organized when you need to," says Rose-Marie Charest, psychologist and speaker.
For house fire victims, Charest says, "you need to take stock of how you and your loved ones are reacting to the situation. Talk about it. Give yourself time to rest and gradually get back into your routine."
Every year, hundreds of people are injured and thousands have to evacuate their homes. According to Statistics Canada, since 2011, around 220 people die in a fire every year. Knowing that nearly 49% of house fires are due to distraction or human error, Desjardins recommends being cautious.
For Fire Prevention Week from October 9 to 15, Marie-Ève Vézina, Director of Claims at Desjardins Insurance, has a few tips to keep you safe:
- Make sure the batteries in your smoke detectors work. Did you know that in 75% of fatal house fires, the smoke detectors were defective or missing?
- Avoid overloading electrical outlets and make sure that items like furniture and curtains are a safe distance from heat sources. Be sure to hire an electrician to do any electrical work.
- Don't leave cooking food unattended, fry food with a fryer instead of a pot and always set a timer. Get a fire extinguisher for your house and put it in an easily accessible location.
- Dispose of any ashes from your fireplace safely. It is also recommended to have your chimney cleaned and swept once a year.
- Make a fire evacuation plan for your home and talk to your kids about it.
The holidays are approaching and we all know that there are more house fires at this time of year. Risks include decorative lights, lit fireplaces, candle-lit dinners and cigarettes that are put out or disposed of improperly.
We all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. "Prevention is by far our best ally against avoidable events. And together, by reducing the frequency and severity of auto and home claims, we can manage premiums in the long-term," adds Vézina.
We created the Alert program in 2017 with prevention in mind. Originally dedicated to preventing water damage, it has recently been revamped to address more risks, such as particularly fire and break-ins.
Beyond furniture, bricks and mortar, prevention can help you avoid an incredible amount of stress and trouble. Make it a priority. You can always contact your local fire station for more advice.