If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does anybody have to clean up the mess? It’s a question for the ages, but a more important and pressing one for many homeowners, is what happens if that same tree falls on your house as part of a home emergency or big storm. Who do you call? What do you do? Most importantly, who pays for all the headache.
What to Do if a Tree Falls on Your House
There are a myriad of situations in which a tree might fall on a house, including, but not limited to, high winds, flooding, and winter storms. No matter the cause, when a tree comes down, it’s not only frightening but can be seriously dangerous, too. If a tree falls on your house, regardless of the cause, these are the first and immediate steps to take:
1. Get to Safety
Before you do anything else, get the entire family, including your pets, to a safe place in the home, away from where the tree has fallen. Since you’re inside, and the tree is outside, it’s going to be difficult to know how extensive the damage is, or how much tree is on top of your house. Get away from the damaged part of the structure, even if that means evacuating to a neighbor’s house.
2. Step Outside and Assess the Damage
Once everyone is safe, take a look at the tree and your house. This is easier done in the daylight, but if you have a good flashlight, you should be able to get some idea of what you’re dealing with. If the tree has pulled down power lines or is at risk of damaging gas lines, turn off the main breaker in your home’s breaker box or the gas line at the meter.
3. Document Everything
No matter what kind of damage, large or small, get good photos and video of it from a variety of angles (as well as from inside if any damage is visible) and using the best lighting you have available (if at night). Get additional images in the daylight if you didn’t have the benefit of sunlight for the first set.
4. Cover Any Openings
Downed trees can cause significant damage if they’re big enough, including breaking windows, putting holes in roofs, and collapsing buildings or walls. Take care dealing with damaged structures, but do your best to cover the holes, at least temporarily, where possible. If a tree is on a roof, don’t go up there to tarp—wait for a pro with safety equipment.
5. Call for Help
Once you’ve got the situation sort of stabilized, call for help. In this case, that means calling the insurance company and the utility company. Your agent can advise you how to proceed to get home professionals on the scene and the utility company can send someone to ensure the utilities are safely switched off.
Dangers of Trees Falling on Your House
A tree falling on your house can be extremely dangerous, depending on the size of the tree. Large trees can punch holes in roofs, break windows, and even cause serious structural damage to your home. In addition, trees of any size may bring power lines down with them, creating other hazards aside from having a tree fall on your house.
When to Call a Pro
When a tree falls on your house, you should first call your insurance agent, then call a pro as they advise. A tree falling on your home is often a pretty serious occurrence, and you’ll need a roofing expert to check that your roof didn’t suffer serious damage, at minimum. If there’s major damage, you’ll need many pros to safely extract the tree so that your home can be salvaged without anyone being injured.