How to Handle Fire Damage in Your Home or Business
When a tragedy like a home or business fire occurs, it is natural to feel shock. Your emotional recovery is just as important as the fire damage restoration. While this article focuses on repairing structures, there are many ways to receive emotional support including your local Red Cross. Disaster stress should be treated by a professional who has special expertise in the area. It is important to know where to begin and who can help.
Fire damage repair and restoration services are available for your home or business. The following checklist will provide the steps necessary to initiate a safe and efficient fire damage restoration.
Immediately following a fire, listen carefully to first responders. Seek medical help as needed. Do not reenter your home or business until a member of the fire department deems it safe to enter. Check for loose power lines, structural damage, broken gas lines, and other damage. Do not allow children to enter until you have conducted an initial inspection following the fire. The site may be unsafe. Moreover, observing the damage could cause emotional harm to young children.
What to Expect After a Fire
Depending upon the severity of the fire, damage to your home or business may be serious. Flames, heat, smoke, and water can all cause fire damage. Firefighters may have needed to break windows or even cut holes in the roof to put out the fire. Your personal items will most likely be wet from water used to extinguish the fire.
Once you have examined the outside for damage and deemed it safe to enter, proceed vigilantly. Depending on the situation, safety gear like boots, hard hat, goggles, and other safety equipment may be required. Trust your senses. Use caution before touching fire damaged items; the soot and remaining water could be dangerous.
Detecting Gas After a Fire
Smell for gas and listen for a hissing noise, which indicates a gas leak. If you notice any signs of gas, immediately exit the property. If possible, open windows and doors for more ventilation.
Electrical Issues Following a Fire
If you see sparks, frayed wires, smell burning rubber or the like, immediately turn off electricity from the circuit breaker or main fuse box. If there is water between you and the fuse box, call a professional electrician. Disconnect and check all appliances.
Begin Documenting the Fire Damage
Take photographs and videos of the damage. You want documentation of where the fire damage occurred in order to substantiate insurance claims. Begin compiling a list of lost and damaged items. Includes receipts when possible.
Contact Insurance Agent
Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. Your agent will advise you what to do first. Report how, when, and where the damage occurred. Ask what you should do to keep your home safe until it is repaired. Ask who you should talk to about cleaning your home or business.
In addition, ask your insurance company about how to learn the value of your home and property. If you do not have insurance, the following organizations may be of service:
- American Red Cross
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Salvation Army
- Fire departments
- Religious organizations
Cleaning Up After a Fire
Find out if you or your insurance company will pay for cleaning the fire damage. SERVPRO of Wellington South specializes in cleaning and fire damage restoration and has 24-hour emergency service. While each situation is unique, the fire damage restoration process may look something like this:
- Emergency Contact
- Inspection and Fire Damage Assessment
- Immediate Board-Up and Roof Tarp Service (if needed)
- Water Removal and Drying (if water damage is present)
- Removal of Smoke and Soot from All Surfaces
- Cleaning and Repair
Replace Documents and Records
Asses fire damage to important documents. You will want to quickly replace any of the following documents:
- Driver’s license (Department of Motor Vehicles)
- Government Issued ID (Contact the issuing authority)
- Social security/Medicare cards (Local Social Security office, 1-800-772-1213 or TDD/TTY 1-800-325-0778)
- Auto registration (Local DMV, Department of Revenue, or any motor vehicle agency)
- Titles and deeds (Records department of the area in which the property is located)
- Insurance policies (Your insurance agent or company)
- Credit cards (Contact issuing companies as soon as possible)
- Stocks and bonds (Issuing company or your broker)
- Wills (Your attorney)
- Medical records (Your doctor, hospital, and other medical facilities where you received treatment)
- Warranties (Request a certified copy of the recorded document from the County recorder)
- Income tax records (IRS center where filed, your accountant, or 1-800-829-1040)
- Citizenship papers (Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, 1-800-375-5283)
- Passports (State Department – Passport Services, 202-955-0430 (24 hours))
- Birth, death, and marriage certificates (Bureau of Records in the appropriate state)
- Mortgage papers (Lending institution)
- Divorce papers (Request copy from state or local vital records department where you divorced)
- Military discharge papers (Department of Veterans Affairs, 1-800-827-1000 or TDD/TTY 1-800-829-4833)
Next Steps After a Fire
As you continue to recover from the fire damage to your home or business, keep a folder for documents and records. Begin saving receipts for money spent in the fire damage restoration process. Contact your accountment or the IRS to determine if you are entitled to any benefits for people recovering from fire damage. Update your Family Disaster Plan and replenish emergency supplies. Ask for help.
As always, SERVPRO of Wellington South is here for you for all of your fire damage restoration needs. Our team of fire damage specialists is on call and ready to help!