Your world has just been shattered. And like many of us who have experienced a tragedy, it’s hard to imagine that the whole world doesn’t know about it. People go about their business like nothing’s happened. And sometimes we have to make requests based on information that seems pretty obvious to us, but not necessarily to others.
Here’s what I mean:
Garbage: You’d think it would be obvious that since your house burned down, there would be no need for garbage pickup for a while. But believe it or not, it’s up to you to notify your waste management company to stop service and put your account on hold. If you plan to rebuild on the same site, then you can re-engage it at that point. But some companies will just close your account for that period of time.
Phone: If you have…er…had a land line versus just a cell phone, you will need to call the phone company. Your calls will be going into a deep dark hole and they won’t take steps to forward your calls unless you request it. We had a landline and thankfully a voice mailbox service through the phone company, so our messages were easily retrievable. But if you had an answering machine sitting on your counter, your messages are toast. You may want to put a recording on your phone message giving people instructions on how/when to reach you, send you an email, etc. You may also want to ask them to give you some time to get your bearings, that you’re okay and will connect with them soon.
Library: If your library books burned, you’ll want to call the library and ask them to waive the fine/fees for replacing the books. Our library district volunteered that information when I called them and they were very cooperative and supportive.
Cable: At some point if you rebuild on the same site, you’ll need to call your cable company and request they lay new lines. Maybe your builder/contractor will do this for you, but I wouldn’t make that assumption. This is one of those things that you would think the cable company would be aware of since your whole community probably burned down. But no. I found this to be one of the most frustrating things I had to deal with since nobody quite knew what steps to take to get it done. Finally a neighbor gave me the name and number of the local field supervisor and when I called him directly, he knew exactly what to do and handled it quickly.
Utilities: Call your utility companies – electric, gas (this was probably shut off by the gas company before the fire, thank goodness!) They will either close your accounts or put them on hold. They’ll ask if you have a new address where you’ll need utilities turned on and where they can send the bills.
Mail: Since your mailbox burned down, you’re probably wondering where your mail will end up. Most likely the Post Office will hold it for you. Our PO set up a window for wildfire survivors so we could directly pick up our mail at the station versus having to wait in a long line with regular customers. This made the process much easier to cope with and I got to meet a lot of my fellow burned out neighbors that way. However, they may only hold your mail for 30 days. You will need to set up a “forwarding” address. So either open up a P.O. Box or have mail forwarded to your temporary living quarters.
Newspapers and/or landscaping: Again, you’d think it would be obvious, but you’ll have to call these folks too because not everyone will put two and two together and figure they won’t be needed for a while.
Milk delivery. Yep, same drill. You’ll have to call them before they show up in your driveway and wonder where the house went.
You will make it through this. It’s going to feel surreal for a while. You’ll be overwhelmed with all the things you must do, so go easy on yourself! –Laura B.