What Are the First Steps After a Fire?
A fire weaving its way through a home can be devastating in more than one way. There is the actual destruction due to the fire but there is also damage from water, smoke, soot, ash, and the pervasive smoke odor.
A fire-damaged house requires professional restoration services to bring it back to life and clear all the damage. However, homeowners can take some initial steps to make their life safer and easier. From calling early on their insurance company to finding a safe place to stay, people going through the traumatic experience of a fire can sort out several vital issues.
Make Sure Everyone Is Safe (Including Your Pets)
The first, crucial step is to make sure everyone is safe. Make sure that everyone has left the building. Account for the wellbeing and whereabouts of all family members, including pets.
Then, you need to make sure all family members are healthy and unharmed. Remember to check with your vet about your pets: they might have inhaled smoke or have burns that don’t show under their fur.
Call your Utility Companies
Firefighters usually disconnect utilities and shut off the gas, water, and electricity supply. If for any reason they have failed to do so, call your utility companies right away and ask them to shut off the services until it is safe again.
Call Your Insurance Company
Once you are safe and secure outside your home, call your insurance company.
Insurance companies have protocols regarding fire damages. They will tell you what steps you need to take next, such as contacting a trusted restoration company to start mitigating the fire damage.
Choose a Trusted Restoration Company
After the fire has been put out and you have contacted your insurance company, you need to get in touch with a specialized fire restoration company to repair all the damage.
Remember that during a fire, damage occurs from the water used to put out the fire as well as from the smoke, soot, and ash. Odor, in particular, can linger in a building for a long time and requires specialized equipment to deodorize the place.
Protect Your Home by Boarding it
While putting out the fire, firefighters may break a window or a door to better control the situation. Also, windows may break from the intense heat.
If your house is exposed, you will need to board up all the openings to prevent any further damage and protect it from looters.
Thankfully, a restoration company will do this for you to make sure your house is protected from outsiders and any other external threats such as rain.
Record the Damage
When the fire department deems your house to be safe for re-entering—and only then—you may go in and record the damage.
Sometimes, insurance companies ask homeowners to record the fire damage and write down a list of items that got burnt. Look around carefully without touching anything and write down or record on camera or phone what has been damaged and needs to be replaced and what can be salvaged. You can then create a list of damaged items for reimbursement.
Remember that a restoration company has wide experience and are experts in determining which belongings can be salvaged and which ones need to be discarded. Some items that seem in dubious condition could be salvaged thanks to specialized equipment and tools that only professionals have.
Keep the Receipts
Depending on your insurance policy and what it covers, keep your receipts from items you bought to replace those burnt. The receipts are necessary proof for your insurance company to reimburse you for the expense.
Take Care of Valuable Documents and Records
The fire might have burnt important documents and records. Think of driver’s licenses, birth and death certificates, marriage certificates, income tax records, Medicare cards, wills, medical records, mortgage papers, credit cards, and so many more.
Whichever are safely retrievable should be recovered. If, however, you have lost important documents, make a note and start issuing new ones.
Take Your Valuables
If your house is not inhabitable and needs considerable restoration, you will need to relocate to another house or a hotel.
Before leaving your house—and assuming that the Fire Department has deemed it safe to do so—take with you valuable items like money, insurance policies, passports, any medication you are currently taking, as well as eyeglasses, dentures, and even toothbrushes.
Don’t forget to take with you any cash you may have in the house, credit cards, checkbooks, jewelry, and any other valuables that you don’t want to lose to looters.
Get a Copy of the Fire Report
The fire department will issue a fire report about the causes of the fire as well as other details relevant to the fire. This fire report will be necessary for your insurance company, which will include it in your file.
Once you have moved, it’s good to notify certain people and organizations of your new address.
If you have children, let their school know your new address. Likewise, inform your employers, family, and friends of your temporary address. Don’t forget to inform your bank and utility companies about your relocation so that you can notify them of any changes in your situation.
Cancel Your Subscriptions
There is no need to pay for cable or Internet service if you won’t be in your home for a few months. It will save you money to call your cable and Internet providers and cancel your subscriptions for the length of the restoration.
You Are Not Alone
Witnessing a fire destroying or damaging your home can be an overwhelming experience. It is a very difficult situation for you, but you do not need to go through it on your own.
You are surrounded by professionals whose very job is to help you: the firefighters, your insurance company, and your restoration company. They will all take care of your home and make sure it is restored, habitable, and safe again.
A fire can be emotionally traumatic. If you get stressed and find it hard to cope with the loss, talk to a specialist who will help you manage your anxiety.
It may help to know that, as a professional and trusted restoration company, we are here to make sure your home is safe and restored. We will come to your home the moment the fire has been put out and start mitigating the damage before we begin the restoration. We will deliver a clean, safe, and fresh house for you and your family to continue living there and creating beautiful memories.