What to Do After an Apartment Fire
When Helen Feest, a 25-year-old living in Madison, Wisconsin, received a call from her insurance carrier asking if she wanted to renew her renters insurance, she didn’t think much about it. She said yes and asked to add her live-in boyfriend to her policy. After renewing her policy with her added roommate, she went about her day without giving it much more thought. It wasn’t until a couple months later she realized the magnitude of that phone call.
It was an early June morning when Helen made her way home from the gym and found the road home was completely blocked off. She maneuvered through backroads to get close enough to discover her apartment building was engulfed in flames. Helen waited anxiously for six hours before she could return to her apartment to see if anything remained. Through the rubble, she was able to retrieve some family heirlooms and jewelry — but nothing else.
The apartment building was considered a total loss and displaced over 20 people in her building, including Helen and her boyfriend. It was then that Helen realized how essential it was to be protected with renters insurance, and the lesson will live with her forever.
We asked Helen and her supportive American Family Insurance agent and agency team, The Lea Agency, LLC, to share the experience with us to help other renters learn about the importance of insurance and how it can help protect you from the unexpected — like an apartment fire.
What Should You Do If Your Apartment Is on Fire?
Kasandra (Kacy) Nelson, a personal lines account specialist at The Lea Agency, LLC, said the first thing you should do during an apartment fire is get out safely and call 911. Then, after you’ve taken a moment to breathe, call your insurance agent to get support right away.
Merlane Keller, also a personal lines account specialist at the agency, told us why getting in touch with your agent is so important. She said, “People often think renters insurance just protects their things, but there's a lot more to a renters policy. One of the things that I like to explain to them is the loss of use coverage. This coverage allows us the ability to find you a place to stay and reimburse you for food if your rental is a total loss.”
Kaitlin (Katy) Lea, Helen’s American Family Insurance agent, added, “You should always call because the sooner we can get American Family involved, the sooner we can start working on the solution.”
What Additional Insurance Advice Do You Have for Renters?
We’ve already learned a lot about renters insurance, but our agent and her team have a lot of tips and advice regarding getting customers the coverage they deserve.
Katy recognizes that renters protection is typically a customer’s first experience with insurance. She advised, “Look for an agency or carrier that will grow with you. A local agency will continue to talk to you about coverages and what you need as you go through life.”
Kacy encouraged renters to ask questions to fully understand your policy. “Know your policy and get to a point where you understand it. Ask questions when you get renters insurance and make sure you’re fully covered.” To get you started, here’s a list of some questions you can ask your renters agent.
And, like Katy said earlier, once you create a home inventory of your belongings, compare it to the coverage you have and decide if you need to adjust your policy. “Do you think you need to bump up your coverage? Call us if you do! It can really save you in the long run.”
Merlane’s advice for those who don’t have renters insurance is to take a look at what they have. She said, “I'm a huge advocate of renters insurance. You know, a lot of people will tell me, ‘Oh, I don't have much, I don’t need it.’ I'll look them in the eyes and ask, ‘What are you wearing today? Just think if you lost it all.’”
As for our customer? Helen said this experience has made her a huge believer in renters insurance and advises anyone renting to get it.
“Get it. Just get it,” said Helen. “It’s insanely affordable and you won’t regret it.” In fact, American Family has a renters insurance calculator tool you can use to determine how much your things are worth and provide an estimate of how much it’d cost to cover it all with renters insurance. Try it out!
Helen went on to say how important it is to keep your policy up to date. Remember in the beginning of this story we mentioned that she added her live-in-boyfriend to her policy? It might sound like it would be a hassle but keeping your protection up to date with new coverage maximums and your roommates is quick and easy — and oftentimes saves you bigtime. Adding her boyfriend to her policy meant protecting his stuff as well!
Helen said, “I didn't realize how easy and straightforward it would be to add an unmarried live-in partner to a policy. I just sort of told them to do it and then was bracing for blowback or an increase in price or something like that. And they were like, ‘You’re all good, that's fine.’ It saved us because he lives with me and all his possessions are here too. So that's definitely something that everybody should know is easy to do.”
Hopefully you have a better understanding of just how important renters insurance is! It’s an affordable coverage that grows with you and protects you whether you’re at home or on the go. Plus, renters insurance can protect you in so many ways. Not only does it cover you for fires, but you’ll be covered for things like theft, water damage from burst pipes or a forgetful neighbor’s flooded bathtub and so much more! Like Helen, you work hard for the things that make your place uniquely yours, and having renters insurance in place can give you peace of mind you’re protected from the unexpected.