Help When Your Family Needs It Most: 3 Important Steps To Take After A Devastating Home Fire
A house fire can be one of the most difficult things for a family to go through, especially in the days immediately following the devastation. You'll be thankful you all survived, but left in disbelief at what a fire can take from you. Knowing how to handle the situation once the initial shock has worn off is crucial to regaining control of your life and salvaging whatever you can now.
1. Get Professional Help
Once the immediate danger is over, you're going to need an assessment of the structural and interior damage, including a professional opinion on whether or not the home can be used, prior to repairs being made. Even if you think the house is safe to enter and reoccupy, a fire damage restoration service is needed to confirm (or deny) this. They'll let you know right away what your best course of action should be regarding all the things you have to take care of:
- Testing for safe occupancy.
- Assessing the level of fire and/or water damage.
- Boarding up the building, if necessary.
- Soot clean-up and smoke odor removal, including purifying the air.
- Extracting any water remaining from the fire hoses.
- Taking away and disposing of the household items that are beyond salvage.
- Offering advice regarding potential mold hazards and an estimate for prevention, if your home is livable.
A fire damage restoration service is very likely able to help you within hours of you calling them. Beyond taking care of the cleanup, they'll also have a lot of useful information for you as you try to move forward. They can tell you how to deal with insurance, along with having the home inspected by local authorities if needed. Since it's their business to help after a fire, they'll have plenty of experience and wisdom to pass along to you as you try to move forward.
2. Begin To Put Your Life Back Together Quickly
There are a few important matters that will require your attention as you have the damage to your home and life assessed. If you can, start making a list of what the professionals are advising you to do, from the fire officials to the cleanup crew to the insurance agent. The many steps you'll have to take start with the following:
- Finding a temporary residence, if you can't remain in your home.
- Fencing off the property, if it's determined to be a potential hazard to people in the area, especially curious kids.
- Itemizing your losses as you go, particularly if things need to be disposed of due to damages.
- Discussing the cause of the fire with officials and documenting the incident for insurance purposes.
- Finding out how much help you'll be able to get from your insurer and when it will start to kick in.
- Having the home inspected by a professional and hiring the repair crew you'll need to restore the home to occupancy status.
If your home has been seriously damaged in a fire, not much of your life will be the same for the indefinite future. Until you're able to sort it out, rebuild and collect all you're owed by the insurance company, look to friends and family to help you get through. If you have a lot of people interested in helping you, consider starting a fund for your family online, to centralize the effort and maximize the results. You might also check with your church or the local Red Cross about different ways your community can help you, such as with clothing, meals and even emotional support.
3. Save What You Can
Loss from fire and water damage can be devastating, but all may not be lost, even if the damage is severe. If you have the "Okay" from a professional to sort through the home before any further action is taken, grab everything worth saving and even remnants of things damaged, as you might be able to resurrect them in another form:
- Take pictures of photographs, even damaged ones; you should be able to reprint them in finer form, perhaps after a little photo-shopping to cover up areas that are missing or marred.
- Cut scraps of damaged clothing, such as precious baby clothes or your cherished wedding dress. You can put the decent pieces behind glass and a frame, creating various keepsakes from the ashes.
- Take pictures of your favorite pieces of furniture that can't be saved, so long as the outline can be discerned; a furniture salesperson should be able to find you adequate replacements or an antique dealer might be able to find you a close proximity of your favorite lost items.
- Don't assume your computer data is lost, unless the machine is entirely melted, as an expert should be able to recover data from the head assembly. Even if the hard drive was exposed to water, there's still hope, so long as the water hasn't completely dried yet. Even then, certain chemicals are capable of removing corrosion without destroying data; thus, your information could be saved.
What you've been through and what you're facing is both serious and complicated. Try to remain positive, despite the losses and stay organized as you put the pieces of your life back together. Looking forward, it's going to take a lot to get you and your family back to "normal", but with help from those around you, including professional fire restoration services, you'll get there.