Will Seippel | March 9, 2023

house fire
What would you grab in a house fire?
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Imagine being awakened in the middle of the night by your smoke alarm. Half-awake, you assess the situation. Smoke fills your room, and the blaring alarm is frightening. You call 911, then focus on the safety and escape of your family and pets from the house fire. What essentials do you take? Of course, your wallet, keys, phone, and maybe even your laptop.

What else do you grab once you’ve collected the essentials and everyone is safe? Anything? Or would you leave quickly?

What Folks Would Grab in a House Fire

If you think about rescuing personal possessions, you’re in good company. According to an AA Insurance Consumer Index survey, 72% of respondents would try to rescue personal property from a house fire. What items are they most likely to save? The survey says:

  • 33% choose to save photo albums
  • 21% grab a family heirloom
  • 19% rescue a favorite jewelry item
  • 13% save artwork

Another survey by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) asked people what two possessions they’d save if they had three minutes, assuming no one else was on the premises. The responses were essentially the same as the above survey, but I was surprised by some other responses.

The “what would you grab in a house fire” survey responses for consumer goods plummeted to single digits. The ABI survey shows 6% of respondents would grab clothes. Other consumer goods fared worse: cameras, food, and hairdryers came in at 1%. Why grab a hair dryer?

Of course, I understand that folks become overwhelmed and desperate during an emergency evacuation. Their minds can’t figure out what’s happening, so they quickly grab whatever is closest to them. That’s why thinking about what you would grab in a fire is essential.

I might grab something sitting near the exit, but only if it might be useful (for example, a coat if it’s winter, and I’m in my pajamas). My focus, though, would be to get out of the house as quickly as possible. But I’d still be heartbroken by the loss of my treasured heirlooms. How could one not be upset over such a loss?

art deco diamond and emerald ring
I might grab this Art Deco diamond and emerald ring if I had time.
Image: WorthPoint®

Grab What You Love

We treasure heirlooms and collectibles because of the memories and emotions attached to them. When they are lost to a house fire, it’s as if we have been assaulted. Losing a treasure is like losing the last physical connection to a loved one. It hurts.

Fortunately, houses and consumer goods can be replaced. We will still have memories of our loved ones and the heirlooms that belonged to them. But unless we have an online photo and story archive of our favorite items, their memories will end with us.

I’ve begun to archive my treasured items in the WorthPoint Vault. The Vault makes maintaining a digital repository of my physical collections easy. The photographs and descriptions I upload to the Vault ensure I have a record of important family keepsakes. Having such a record won’t protect the items from loss but will help keep the memories alive.

What would you grab in a house fire? Do you have a digital archive of the items? I encourage you to think about it if you wake up one night to the sound of a smoke alarm.

Will Seippel is the CEO and founder of WorthPoint, the world’s largest provider of information about art, antiques, and collectibles. An Inc. 500 Company, WorthPoint is used by individuals and organizations seeking credible valuations on everything from cameras to coins. WorthPoint counts the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and the IRS among its clients.