A huge blaze completely destroyed a building at the Ashford at Stoneridge Apartments on Flat Shoals Road in Riverdale Wednesday evening. About 38 people have lost their homes and everything inside, according to the American Red Cross. However, no injuries or deaths were reported.

Witnesses say the fire broke out in an upstairs apartment just before 7:30 p.m. The fire sent a huge column of black smoke into the air that was visible north of the airport. A thick haze of smoke spread for about a quarter mile into surrounding neighborhoods.

After the smoke clears

The American Red Cross works closely with Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services and other local agencies to help people find temporary housing and navigate the bureaucracy after a fire or other disaster. Beware of scammers who may try to prey on you while you are under stress.

What happens if you lose your home in a fire or other disaster? The American Red Cross offers a guidebook called “Picking Up the Pieces After A Fire.” In it, people who have survived a fire can find out what steps to take, the emotions to expect, how children might react, how to deal with pets, how to get copies of your vital documents, and what to look for at the site itself.

Renters generally don’t have to worry about issues like structural damage repair and reconnecting utilities that affect homeowners. However, not all renters have rental insurance, which covers the contents of their apartment or rental house.

Based on the guidebook, we’ve compiled a list of helpful contacts. Consult with Red Cross Disaster Services about specific steps to take if you have any questions.

Replacing your paperwork

Taking care of yourself

The American Red Cross also offers these tips for people who have been affected by a fire or other disaster:

  • Try to return to as many of your personal and family routines as possible.
  • Get rest and drink plenty of water.
  • Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially on television, the radio, and in the newspapers.
  • Focus on the positive.
  • Recognize your own feelings.
  • Reach out and accept help from others.
  • Do something you enjoy. Do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past.
  • Stay connected with your family and/or other support systems.
  • Realize that, sometimes, recovery can take time.

Renter’s insurance: worth the cost

For about $5—$14 per month, according to Forbes Magazine, you can insure all your possessions inside your apartment or rental home. Don’t count on your landlord’s insurance company to compensate you for your losses. Check Forbes’ recommendations for renters’ insurance.

Before disaster strikes

You can take action now to protect your possessions before a disaster wipes them out. The most important things you can do are to make a list of every valuable item in your home, including makes, models, serial numbers, and (if possible) receipts showing what you paid for each item or a list price you find online. Don’t worry about hand-me-down sofas that you can easily replace through Craigslist or Goodwill. Go through each room and write down serial numbers for things like:

  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Cell phones
  • Stereo systems
  • Musical instruments
  • Firearms
  • Printers
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Power tools
  • Bicycles

If you own books, write down or scan the barcode into your phone. Books can be expensive to replace. That includes textbooks for current students.

Once you’ve collected all the information, make a digital copy and e-mail it to yourself on an account that you know you will be able to access in the future (like a free Gmail account).

To avoid identity theft problems, do not include numbers from financial documents or vital records. Consider renting a safe deposit box at a bank to hold physical copies of your serial number list, your account numbers, passports, birth certificates, and other important records. You also can store small valuables (like jewelry) in a safe deposit box. Contact your bank for more information.

Smoke detectors save lives

Is your landlord’s smoke detector working? Hit the test button. If not, try replacing the battery. If that doesn’t work, contact your landlord to replace the smoke detector. If they don’t respond immediately, contact your nearest fire department, which might be able to check the detector for you or offer you or your landlord a free replacement.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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