Fighting the Fire: The Steps to Recovery

Experiencing a fire in your home is something we all hope we never have to go through. The trauma and feelings of loss and despair that accompany such a disaster can be brutal and blinding, an unmerciful and shocking distraction from the many important decisions that now have to be made in order to recover quickly and to salvage as much as possible from the damage. At a time when you likely have never felt more lost or distraught, the situation demands more focus and calculated effort than ever before, and to put it mildly, it just doesn’t seem fair. It can be difficult to know where to start and what to do throughout the long road to recovery, and there are so many easy mistakes to be made along the way that it’s no wonder that most of our clients express feelings of confusion and despair during the initial phases. In 2011 alone, statistics showed nationwide damages resulting from residential fires in excess of 6.5 billion dollars, which is actually a low average in comparison to other years this decade. Having worked in the fire restoration field for several years, we know that the best we can do for our customers is to help them get through the loss as smoothly and as quickly as possible, despite feeling confused and torn between so many impending decisions. That is one of the many reasons why we’re here, and although we’ve touched on this subject before, it certainly bears repeating.

After experiencing a fire in your home, above all else, do no further harm to yourself or your family. For many, this is easier said than done, given the agony of knowing their prized belongings may now be exposed to the elements or the unsafe conditions of the acidic smoke and soot inside the home. Remember that your life and your health is more important than anything you own, and respect the instructions of the fire department and police officials regarding whether or not it’s safe for you to re-enter the building. In many cases, an investigation of the source and cause of the fire is required before anyone else is allowed on site, and failure to respect this policy can result in legal consequences and the surrendering of any rights to reimbursements from your insurance provider.

Once the site has been cleared for you to re-enter, remember to still take the necessary safety precautions. Wear a respirator if you will be inside any affected area for an extended period. Make sure you have contacted your insurance company as soon as possible and write down your claim number and any other pertinent information they give you. Follow your claim handler’s instructions. You may be advised not to touch or remove anything until the adjuster arrives, and if so, it’s in your best interest to follow those guidelines and take as many pictures as you can without disturbing anything. Start making lists of the contents you lost, and try to locate any receipts or important documents you’ll need throughout the course of your claim. The more information you have beforehand, the faster the claim will progress.

Next, it’s time to contact your local licensed fire restoration contractor. A reputable contractor should already have a working relationship with your insurance provider, and you should expect them to be in communication and cooperation with both of you regarding your shared interests in the home. The restorer and the adjuster should examine the home in its entirety, evaluating each of the contents and the structure itself to determine the scope of restoration and a detailed inventory report of items to be restored and those to be deemed as total loss or non- restorable items. Remember that each policy is different with specific policy limits and exclusions pertaining to total loss payouts, contents, temporary lodging, storage, etc. The more you educate yourself on your home insurance policy before disaster strikes, the better prepared and the less surprised you’ll be for what unfolds later.
Different types of smoke and soot damage, whether from grease, plastic, electric or other sources, require different methods of cleaning and odor removal, and you should never attempt this cleanup on your own without the expertise of a trained and licensed professional. Not only will you be jeopardizing your health, but your work will not be backed by your insurance or the bond of a licensed contractor, and any mistakes or lingering odors will be yours to live with.

In short, stay calm after the fire, and try to prioritize your needs and distinguish them from the truly emotional wants that can sometimes get in the way of a wise decision. Your family needs you now more than ever, and ECS is here to help you stay safe and productive.