Anyone can be affected by fire damage in your home or business. Fire is the disaster that does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter where you are located, or even the age or condition of your home. There is always the unfortunate chance that a fire could occur for many reasons.
Fire Damage Facts
While most fires start from smoking materials, the top reason for residential fire-related injuries and structural damage was from cooking equipment. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 357,000 residential fires occurred between 2009 to 2013.
This resulted in nearly 2,500 fatalities and 13,000 injuries. In addition, three out of five residential fire-related fatalities occurred because smoke alarms were defective or missing. If you are impacted by a fire, the most important thing is to make sure you and your loved ones are safe. Material possessions can be replaced. Humans cannot.
A fire can destroy a lifetime of precious memories and irreplaceable possessions. During this stressful and confusing time, it is very important that you make life-altering decisions in order to try to regain some normalcy in your life.
What Do You Do First?
The first thing you need to do after a fire is to wait until you are given explicit information from the fire department to enter you home again. Even though it may just look like cosmetic damage, the fire may have severely damaged essential structures and it may not be safe to go back in. In addition, the fire can easily reignite even after it has been put out.
You should also immediately contact your insurance agency. Your agent will be able to guide you in the right direction and help you take the necessary steps in the hours following the fire. Some of these steps may include:
- Make sure your help keep the damage to a minimum. This could mean covering windows, doors, and other openings to help prevent water damage.
- Putting up temporary fencing around your property in order to prevent vandalism and theft
- Making sure you don’t turn on the utilities until the fire department lets you know it is ok to do so.
- Making a list of the items damaged or destroyed by the fire, and listing the prices of the items.
- Locating temporary housing for you and your family. This could be staying with friends or family, staying in a hotel, or even finding an apartment complex that helps those displaced by disasters.
- Hiring a professional home inspector to assess the structural damage done to your home in the fire
When speaking to the insurance agent, make sure you establish a clear understanding of what your insurance will and will not cover. Some of steps you need to take after a fire can be expensive, so you’ll want to know what you do and don’t have to pay for.
Make sure you keep track of any toiletries or necessities you need along the way. You are entitled to any living expenses you incur due to being displaced.
Conducting a Proper Inspection
Hiring an inspector to give your home a thorough inspection is very important. It is unlikely that a single inspector will be able to conduct all aspects of your home investigation following the fire.
It will mostly likely need to be inspected by a structural engineer, an industrial hygienist, as well as a plumber. This may slow the process down, but a thorough home inspection is an imperative step in being able to move back home and try to regain some normalcy. A home inspection should evaluate:
- Pipes and other plumbing fixtures
- Air quality
- Windows (if any are intact) and window frames
- Doors and door frames
- The roof
- Electrical circuits
- Lighting fixtures and fans
- Steel and iron striations
- Stucco, siding, and concrete
- Tile and wooden floors
- Interior walls
- Heating systems
- Any part of the home that may have been damaged by fire, smoke, heat, or moisture
- Any part of the home that may be susceptible to mold due to water damage
A fire in your home or business cannot always be preventable. A fire doesn’t care whose life it uproots. However, if you plan ahead and take the proper steps and precautions following a fire, the recovery time after fire damage can be a lot more manageable.
Fast Home Help. (2016). Rebuilding Your Life After a Home Fire. http://www.fasthomehelp.com/disasters/fire
ServePro. (no date listed) How to Prevent Fire Damage at Your Lemay Home. http://www.servproclaytonladue.com/blog/post/18511/fire-smoke-damage-restoration/lemay-fire-damage-facts-and-tips