Immediate Steps After a Fire: What to Do and What to Avoid
A fire can be a devastating and traumatic event that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. The aftermath of a fire requires careful and immediate action to ensure your safety, protect your property, and start the recovery process. In this blog, we will discuss the essential steps to take after a fire, as well as what to avoid to prevent further complications.
Ensure Safety First
The safety of you and your loved ones is the top priority. If the fire department has not already given you the all-clear, do not re-enter the property until it is deemed safe. Structural damage or lingering hazards could put your life at risk.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Notify your insurance company about the fire as soon as possible. They will guide you through the claims process and provide information on what is covered by your policy. Document the damage with photos and make a list of items that were lost or damaged in the fire.
Prevent Further Damage
Board up broken windows and doors to prevent unauthorized access and further damage to your property. Cover any holes in the roof to prevent additional water damage in case of rain.
Cooperate with Authorities
Work closely with fire investigators and authorities to determine the cause of the fire. Your cooperation can help ensure accurate assessments and insurance claims.
Secure Important Documents
Retrieve important documents like identification, passports, insurance policies, and financial records. If they have been damaged, consult with the relevant institutions on how to obtain replacements.
Contact Utility Companies
Get in touch with utility companies to have services like gas, electricity, and water disconnected if they were not already shut off during the firefighting efforts. This will prevent further risks.
Communicate with Loved Ones
Inform family members, friends, and neighbors about the fire and your current situation. They can provide support and assistance during this difficult time.
Seek Temporary Shelter
If your home is uninhabitable, find a safe and temporary place to stay. Reach out to local emergency shelters, hotels, or stay with family and friends if possible.
What to Avoid:
Re-enter the Property Prematurely
Avoid entering the property until it has been declared safe by the fire department and relevant authorities. Structural damage or lingering hazards could pose serious risks to your safety.
Disrupt the Fire Scene
While it's natural to want to assess the damage, avoid disturbing the fire scene. It's important for fire investigators to examine the area to determine the cause and origin of the fire.
Touch or Consume Contaminated Items
Items exposed to smoke, soot, and chemicals during a fire may be contaminated. Avoid touching or consuming any food, beverages, or personal items that may have been exposed.
Dispose of Damaged Items Immediately
Your insurance company might require evidence of your losses for claims processing. Avoid discarding damaged items before documenting them thoroughly with photographs and descriptions.
Disregard Emotional Well-being
Coping with the aftermath of a fire can take an emotional toll. Don't hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals to help you process your feelings and experiences.
Assume All Damage Is Visible
Some damage, such as structural weaknesses or compromised electrical systems, might not be immediately apparent. Instead of making assumptions, wait for professional assessments before making any decisions.
Delay Notifying Your Insurance Company
Promptly notifying your insurance company about the fire is crucial for a smooth claims process. Delays could lead to complications or denial of coverage.
Start Repairs Before Approval
Before initiating any repairs or restoration work, wait for approval from your insurance company. Unapproved repairs might not be covered under your policy.
In the aftermath of a fire, a mix of emotions can cloud your judgment. By following the right steps and avoiding common mistakes, you can minimize further damage and start the journey toward recovery. Remember, reaching out for support from professionals, friends, and family can make the process less daunting. While the road to recovery might be long, taking immediate and informed action is the first step to rebuilding your life and property.
Frequently Asked Questions
DIY soot removal is not recommended. Commercially available products can actually cause permanent damage to surfaces. Soot itself is primarily oil-based, but that residue also contains toxic, possibly biohazard contaminants.
It's never a quick fix, though we've gathered together a multi-disciplined team of contractors and technicians to work in tandem to complete the work as soon as possible. From structural repairs to sand/soda-blasting to odor removal to contents cleaning, our fire damage restoration crew begins as soon as the project scope is determined, and we don't stop until the job is done and both you and the insurance company are satisfied with the results.
Depending on the extent or location of the fire damage, some homeowners can move back in a few days or longer. The fire department will usually turn off electricity and gas to the property immediately, which won’t be restored until a building inspector says it’s safe to turn those utilities back on. If you experienced significant smoke damage and the home’s occupants include elderly persons, young children, or those with chronic health conditions, you may be wise to stay until the smoke cleanup is complete. Contracting with a company experienced in fire damage restoration can often get you back home sooner because they’ll have the resources to hire and manage the many tradespeople who will need to work together to make the home liveable again.
Smoke damage is rarely limited to one area of the house, and it leaves behind a residue that can hide in crevices and out-of-reach areas, and a simple "airing out" may not be sufficient. We recommend consulting with a smoke damage technician who can help you troubleshoot the next steps.
Most often, yes. You'll need to check your specific policy for the full scope of coverage, but generally, if the damage was caused by a flame, it's covered. Your best bet is to hire a professional restoration to help you through the claims process. We know how to avoid some common missteps when it comes to making sure the entire loss is documented and covered. Many homeowners and insurance companies forget, for instance, to consider that your HVAC system will need to be cleaned of soot, and since fires are extinguished using water, many areas of your home may need to be restored due to water damage even if they weren't directly affected by the fire.