First Steps After a Residential Fire
A residential fire, even if it’s not a total loss, is a devastating event emotionally. Unfortunately, if you experience a fire, there’s no time for reflection or wool gathering after it’s over. It’s imperative that you know how to respond and what are the proper steps to take.
But, where do you start after such an overwhelming disaster?
Call Your Insurance Carrier Right Away
Remember that loss mitigation starts with you. You’ll need to act fast to prevent things from getting worse, so start taking inventory of everything that’s damaged before you discard anything due to fire, water or smoke damage. Take photos of anything that’s damaged or destroyed, and save any receipts for money you might spend relating to your losses and fire damage. The insurance company will need all this information, and it’s crucial that you have it for them. If the fire department will let you back into the home again, be very careful and look for any structural damage that could be hazardous and will need repair. Things like damaged ceilings, charred beams and sagging floors all mean that your home could be seriously weakened.
Check for exposed or charred wiring, as well as damage behind drywall and other areas that are normally not visible. In many cases, the electric meter might be completely removed by the fire department after the fire has been put out. If the fire department has put hazard tape over doors or windows, do not enter that area or cut that tape unless you hear official advice that it’s safe.
If a city building inspector has marked the home with a color-coded sign, do not enter at all unless you can find out more information and instructions on whether it’s safe to do so. If you run across a door that’s jammed, don’t force it open. It may be jammed because the house’s frame has shifted and weakened, and it could actually be supporting the structure.
If you smell gas or propane before you enter the home, get away immediately and let the fire department know as soon as you get to a safe place and can do so. Look for downed power lines, cracks in the foundation or other damage that could point to a serious problem before you enter.
Things To Do:
· Open the doors and windows, if possible, to let the building begin to air out.
· Make sure you have protective gear before entering – hardhat, boots, gloves, respirator. Burning furniture or carpeting can leave toxic residues.
· If you can get access to electricity, run a large squirrel-cage fan to begin drying out the water damage. Use a claw hammer or wrecking bar to remove any moldy drywall that might develop.
· Use a diluted solution of trisodium phosphate to clean fabrics and reduce smoke odors (be careful, TSP is caustic). A diluted TSP/bleach/water solution can also be used to swab down drywall or wallpaper for soot removal.
· Throw away any exposed food. Food from the freezer may still be salvageable if it still has ice crystals on it.
· Keep children away from the house and in a safe place. Seeing fire damage can be traumatic for kids.
Find a Restoration Company ASAP
The steps mentioned above are worthwhile advice if the fire damage isn’t too severe. Please realize, though, that you can only do so much and that it’s important to find a restoration company who can help with the process. Trying to take on too much is not only exhausting, but it can also be extremely dangerous if you’re not trained and experienced in this type of work.
A professional fire restoration service can help with things like HVAC system cleaning and repair, debris removal, any structural rebuilding or repair and extensive drying in the case of water damage. Your insurance company can help you connect with the right restoration service. Make sure that the team you select is IICRC certified. This certification means that your restoration team will be current in health and safety certifications and has had formal, up-to-date, specialized training, as well as the complete set of licenses and comprehensive insurance needed for the job.
The fire trucks may be gone along with the fire and smoke, but the hard part is just beginning. It’s easy to feel like your life has been turned upside-down after a residential fire, but with the right steps, you can begin to put things back together again and get back on the road to normalcy.