Facing the consequences of fire damage can be overwhelming physically and emotionally. Many questions arise, and decisions need to be made by the owner. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions with answers.
- Who should I call first after the fire?
You should call your insurance company. You will want them to work with you or give you the go-ahead to hire a remediation or restoration company. They will also be able to share what coverage you have to cover temporary housing and other supplemental costs. Examples of these additional costs will be the storage of salvageable possession and the cleaning of your belongings. If you rent, notify your landlord should first.
- What do I do if I do not have insurance?
FEMA identifies some organizations that may be able to help you. Their list includes the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the public health service. Also, you may contact your church or any religious organization or community group in your area. Extended family members should also be involved and may be able to provide emergency shelter.
- If the envelope of my home has been damaged, what should I do?
You will need to board up any openings in the roof or walls. This will protect your home from stray animals and further intrusion of water by rain or snow. Vandals or squatters may be kept away as well. They would have to remove heavy and cumbersome boards. Plus, it would be a noisy venture, making it easier to detect.
- When will I be allowed into my home?
The Fire Department, according to FEMA, should be the ones to give you clearance to enter the home. This is because they will know if the utilities are turned off. The structure needs to evaluated for safety as well. The police should also be notified as well so that they can keep an eye on your home. You will also want it to air out as much as possible.
- Can I feel sick from the residue left in the home after the fire?
Yes, you can. First of all, if you have medications that were left in the home, you will need to replace them. Particulates of soot can enter the lungs and enter the bloodstream. Levels of carbon dioxide tend to be higher than normal, and VOC’s released from burned furnishings can be present. The very young, old, and immune-compromised are generally the most affected by particulates and VOCs.
- Will my insurance cover the costs of the fire damage?
As a general rule, an insurance company will pay for fire damage restoration. They will not if the damage or fire was set intentionally by the homeowner. Or in case of war or nuclear disasters. Some insurance companies will not pay if the fire was in a home not occupied at the time of the fire – a vacation home situation. Finally, there may be caps on what they will pay due to limits on the policy. You will have to check with your carrier and consider what your specific policy states.
- How much will it cost to restore my home?
Costs for restoration depend on how extensive the damage is. Small fires may cost from an average of $3,500 to $5,000 to remediate. Large, whole house fires may reach $50,000 or more.
- How long will it take?
Restoring a home may take anywhere from several days to several months. It can be an involved time consuming job. After ensuring that the technicians can safely work in the home, contents will need to be evaluated, discarded, or stored. Containment may be necessary. Workers undertake structural repairs. Cleaning and sterilizing are done, and odors removed. Cleaning after construction is necessary as well.
what will happen to my possessions
- Will I need to deal with water damage as well?
Probably. Unless it was a very small fire, put out immediately with an extinguisher, the fire department is called by the homeowner. They will apply water – and a lot of water may enter very quickly with force. Then water extraction needs to be handled very quickly to prevent mold growth. Contents may need evaluation as well.
- Can you suggest any other things I should consider or steps to take after the fire?
Yes. Reach out to those who can offer emotional support. Other suggestions that FEMA makes are as follows. Ensure that you keep track of all receipts for the insurance company or loss claims on your taxes. Contact your mortgage company about the fire. Take note of what documents you may need in conjunction with the claim later. Account for what documents were lost or hurt in the fire and replace or copy damaged documents. A Federal Reserve Bank can replace money with at least half intact.