The Most Important Steps After a House Fire
Your emotions will be running high after a home fire. This can make it difficult to determine what steps you need to take. Your most important concern is keeping your family safe. The seven most important steps you can take are detailed below to help you through this difficult and confusing time.
1) Safety Always Comes First
Do not enter your home after there has been a fire unless you are 100 percent certain it is safe. Your best option is asking a professional such as a member of the fire department, an insurance damage restoration specialist or a local building official. If you enter your home prior to a professional telling you that it is safe, you are placing yourself at risk due to numerous potential hazards. There are many reasons entering your home after a fire may be unsafe. The structure of your home may have been compromised, there can be dangerous electrical safety concerns and falling debris. The structure of your home is darkened by the smoke. This may prevent you from seeing the possible dangers. You also need to take potential health concerns into consideration. After a fire, PICs are generated. This is the result of the combustion. A lot of PCIs are carcinogens. Even after the fire is out, they will remain on surfaces throughout your home and in the air. These particles are easily ingested because they are microscopic. The best way to eliminate any potential risks to your health is to refrain from touching any items damaged by the fire. The fire department may have had your utilities turned off as a safety precaution. You should not have them turned back on until you are told to do so. The water and fire damage may have left your home unfit for habitation. The only way to be certain if you can safely enter your home is to talk to the professionals and listen to what they say.
2) Call the Emergency Response Teams
Make certain all of the necessary emergency response teams have been called. This includes the fire department and the police department. Putting out the fire as quickly as possible will help mitigate the damage done to your home.
3) Contact Your Insurance Agent As Soon as Safety Permits
Contacting your insurance agent is extremely important. You should call them as soon as your family is safe and emergency services have been contacted. Your agent will let you know the amount of your deductible, recommend reputable restoration professionals you can trust and answer questions about securing your home. An insurance damage restoration specialist may be sent to your home to assess the damage. Prior to hiring any professionals to repair the damage to your home, ask for a written estimate. Talk to your insurance agent about your monetary responsibilities for the repairs. You should keep all receipts related to the expenses you have paid in relation to the fire. Determine which items have been lost. You will need to provide your insurance agent with an estimation of the value. Picture each room of your home in your mind to help determine the contents. Once it is safe to go inside, make a detailed list of what was damaged or lost for your insurance company. This step is critical for recovering as many of your losses as possible. If you are unsure what is covered, ask your insurance agent or look at your policy.
4) Hiring a Water and Smoke Damage Professional
There are professional companies providing remediation services for water and smoke damage to your home. Hiring professional contractors and technicians is incredibly important due to their extensive, knowledge, training and experience in the removal of microorganisms including bacteria, mildew and mold. These microorganisms represent a serious health risk. Fire damage restoration specialists and water and smoke damage professionals work together to restore your home. Once your home is safe to enter, immediate assistance is available from professional companies. They understand which inspections and permits are required to remain compliant with the building codes and regulations for your area.
5) Minimizing Long-Term Damage
The majority of insurance policies require you to make certain your home is secured from vandalism and long-term damage once the fire has been extinguished. This includes protecting your home from other people as well as the elements. Once you receive assurance from the fire department it is safe to proceed, you need to secure your home the best you possibly can prior to leaving the premises. Any holes in the roof, openings and damaged doors and windows need to be secured with either tarps or plywood. This will eliminate the possibility of additional damage caused by the weather. If you are unable to do this yourself, hire a professional. Ask your insurance company what you need to do to ensure your home is protected. Find out if your policy will cover the cost of hiring a professional. Fire damage restoration professionals have the knowledge and equipment necessary to protect your home for the long-term. Contact your local police department. Explain the situation so they can assist in watching over your home. To decrease the potential environmental dangers, your home may need to be boarded up. The minimum you need to ensure is all openings have been covered. This will provide protection from the elements, while enabling the VOCs, toxins and particulates resulting from the fire to your home enough time to dissipate. When there is not sufficient ventilation, poisonous burned materials are classified as a danger to both your health and your life. Once your home has been boarded up, the professionals entering your home will have breathing equipment and protective masks. Unless you have received training in fire damage restoration, you will be unable to address the most pressing concerns properly. Your insurance agent will provide you with the authorization you need to contact a restoration company to secure your home from both the weather and vandalism in addition to fire damage, smoke damage and water damage.
6) Calling a Professional Restoration Company
Once you call a restoration company, emergency response professionals will be immediately dispatched to your home for damage assessment. As soon as safety permits, openings, holes, windows and doors will be secured to minimize any additional damage. Mold infestation and water damage will be decreased by pumping out the water. One of the most critical services of a restoration company is ventilating your home. Professionals have top of the line air scrubbers and industrial-strength fans immediately available. This is important for starting to decrease how much smoke your possessions and home are being exposed to and cleaning VOCs and toxins from the air. You do not have access to the alkaline cleaning agents, specialized equipment and sensitive filers used by professional restoration companies. Professionals also have the substantial experience required for successfully eliminating all of the smoke within your home. Smoke is extremely corrosive. This can keep damaging your furnishings, household items, appliances and home even though the fire has been extinguished.
7) A Place to Stay
You may not be able to stay in your home after the fire. Your insurance policy will most likely cover your expenses for shelter, clothing and food for a specific amount of time. If your expenses are not covered by your insurance, contact, family, friends, your church or the American Red Cross for the assistance you need. You will require a minimum of shelter, clothing and food. If you are uncertain what is covered by your policy, ask your insurance agent.