The Steps That Lead Back Home (Part 1)
What Just Happened?
A customer once told me that he had been called at work and told that his house was on fire. For a second he thought it was a joke but then he could hear the sound of nearby fire engines moving down the road. He immediately left work and began to rush home. He worked relatively close to home so it didn’t take long before he saw a huge plume of smoke in the distance. As much as he wanted to believe it wasn’t his house, he knew what would be at the end of this particular drive home. At least he thought he knew.
Every homeowner reacts differently to major damage to their home. Some homeowners grieve their loss very quickly and move on to the logistics of getting their life put back together. Others find it much more difficult to deal with the devastation that a major property damage delivers to their front door. The unfortunate part of life is that no matter what their mental and emotional state is, there is still a lot that must be dealt with. Regardless of what tasks lie ahead, it’s important to acknowledge the emotional impact on our customers.
What Do I Do FIRST?
After the fire is out there are only a handful of things that need to be done immediately. This blog series is focused on recovery relating to the dwelling (structure) and of the personal property (contents) components of a property damage and will not be able to address any insurance related issues outside of our scope of services. We also try our best to acknowledge and provide help for the mental and emotional state of those who have suffered such a loss where we can.
Protect Your Property
One of the first things that needs to be done regarding the property is to have it secured or “boarded up” from any damage to windows, doors and other openings either from the fire or the fire fighting efforts. BEWARE: This step can happen as soon as the fire department is wrapping up their equipment and many times a line of contractors that has been listening to police/fire scanners is already waiting at the end of your driveway hoping to get you to use them. They may be legitimate contractors, but what does it say that they trying to get you to sign a contract for repairs when the fire department hasn’t even left yet? That’s high pressure. If you run into this and decide to use one of them for the board up, it would make sense to only agree to board up services at this time and nothing else. DON’T SIGN a contract for all of the repairs right now! You will have time to decide what to do with your home and who to use for the repairs. If do you need board up services, call us anytime 24 hours a day and we’ll respond to help you out.
Find a Place To Stay
Many times, the Red Cross is called out to provide immediate assistance and can even help with temporary lodging if needed. If the Red Cross does not respond, then you may unfortunately be on your own to find a hotel or other arrangement. Ultimately your insurance will likely cover this cost of lodging, but depending on the day of the week your damage occurs on, you may not meet with a claims representative at your property for several days. That’s the earliest possible time that you would begin to receive any kind of compensation for your loss and the added expenses of staying somewhere else.
Your world has just been turned up-side-down. People are calling from all over the place. Some are wanted calls of support, some are not. There are a million things racing through your head and each idea gets interrupted by the next one, and the next emotion. Take some time now, at the beginning and try to remind yourself of what you do have. There is a tremendous amount of help throughout this process that you can count on. For the rest of this day, don’t try to plan out the whole repair or even the next week. Today, just take this one step at a time. The rest of your decisions will be better if you have had time to grieve this loss and prepare mentally for all the steps that will lead back home. One of the best ways to help calm the mind is to write down your thoughts and concerns as they happen so that you can set each burden down for a while, but know that you won’t forget about it. Almost all smart devices have a notebook or journal of some kind. Many of them can record voice notes. If all else fails, text someone you trust the thing you want to remember. This way you’ll have a written record and some help remembering to check on that concern!
Safety First, Valuable Items Right Behind
Firearms and other weapons should be a priority for you to gather up and remove from the property to a safe location. Even that sword that you think of as a family heirloom or cool decoration should be addressed. Ammunition should be inspected for heat damage and may need to be properly and safely disposed of if it has become compromised. Once those safety concerns have been addressed it is time to focus on other important items. Keep in mind that over the next several months there could be many people in your home assisting your restoration. Miscommunications between different companies could result in items being misplaced or even disposed of that are important to you. It is best for you to get the most important, most valuable items out and take them with you. Start making a list of things like jewelry, important papers, medicine and medical devices, cash, credit cards and checkbooks and other personal high value and high importance items. At this point, don’t worry as much about collections, tools or large items, but focus more on important personal items that you can’t afford to lose.
Hurry Up And Take Your Time
There’s no doubt that time is of the essence at the beginning of a severe fire damage. If the fire department used heavy amounts of water fighting the fire, the drying process needs to begin immediately to prevent secondary damage. The longer soot sits on your belongings, especially electronics, the more damage it does and the harder it is to clean. Companies need to be notified, services need to be paused, reports need to be filed, lists need to be made. It can feel like it all has to be done right now! While it’s true, certain things need to be done to prevent further damage, it’s OK to take a minute with each decision to make sure you are comfortable with what is happening.
Ask More Questions
Ask, ask, ask! If you feel embarrassed to ask a question because you may have already asked it, ask anyway. If you don’t know the question to ask, but you don’t quite understand what's going on just tell someone that this doesn’t happen to you all the time and ask them to explain it again, or in more detail. The only way to get comfortable with what’s going on is to learn about what’s going on. Most professionals understand the situation you are in and are glad to answer questions (again) and provide clarity.
Several more blogs will follow this one to help lay out how to handle the details of cleaning up and rebuilding from a severe fire damage. The next part will dive into how to handle all of the personal property that must be sorted through and put onto one list or another. If you should find yourself in this situation, please know that SERVPRO of Cheviot and Cleves is always Here To Help.