You may have heard about the Houston house fire of Space Shuttle Challenger astronaut Ronald McNair's widow on the news or Inside Edition. Her name is Cheryl McNair, and she was kind enough to share her story with us. She was so impressed with the rapid response of our ServiceMaster staff.
When a fire occurs, the first thing that you as a homeowner should do is immediately evacuate your home and call 911 to handle the fire. Once the fire is out and you have made sure that everyone is safe, you must turn your attention to dealing with the damage. The damage from a fire is complex as it involves damage from the fire itself, water damage from putting out the fire, and smoke damage. Residual smoke can cause considerable property damage long after the fire, tarnishing surfaces and objects and getting absorbed into porous materials. It is important for a trained restoration professional to handle smoke damage cleanup and save your items from permanent damage.
There are two main types of smoke damage; the smoke residue from burnt materials and the odor. Different household materials such as wood, plastics, and upholstery leave behind different types of residue and various odors. The residue from the smoke has a damaging effect on household surfaces and items and it takes specific cleaning techniques to reverse the damage and salvage the affected materials. Smoke odors and residue can affect the following:
- Walls and ceilings
- Art work and photos
Filing a Smoke Damage Claim
The damage caused by smoke will become permanent without proper treatment, making it important to start the restoration immediately after the fire is out. One of the first phone calls you should make when you are ready to start the restoration process should be to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance agent to file a claim. Your agent has more experience dealing with disasters than you do and will know of local resources that can help you get settled temporarily, as well as serve as a guide through the next few days. Follow these suggestions to help you navigate the fire and smoke damage insurance claim process.
Review your insurance policy to see what’s covered. If your copy of the policy was lost in the fire, your agent will be able to provide you with a copy. Having your own means you’ll be able to see coverage limits, deductibles, any exemptions, and deadlines for filing a claim without having to call your agent every time you have a question.
Take photos/videos. Document the damage for yourself, but don’t disturb the scene or put yourself in danger. Be sure to get photos of valuable items, like artwork, cars, and electronics. Backing them up to the cloud means you’ll be able to send them to the agent easily without taking up space on your phone.
Gather documents in one place. Keep all paperwork related to the fire and the claim in one place. An expandable file folder is great for keeping papers organized. Be sure to keep paperwork related to:
- The date of the fire;
- The type of damage caused (fire/water/smoke/mold/?);
- Parts of the building that were damaged;
- Contact information for yourself, and the property owner if you rent;
- The police report;
- A list of all damaged items;
- Remediation estimates;
- Receipts for repairs and other restoration expenses;
- Receipts for food, hotels rooms, and other similar expenses if you have to leave your home.
Set up one section of the folder for each type of paperwork; putting the most recent items first is one way to organize sections easily. This will keep important papers in one place, so you can find bills, receipts, and any other requested items quickly.
Stay in contact with your agent. If you don’t already have your agent’s number programmed into your phone, do it now because you’ll be calling frequently over the next few weeks. Be sure he or she has all your contact information, including your cell number, work number, email address, and your temporary mailing address if the fire forced you from your home. Double check on filing deadlines, necessary paperwork or receipts, or anything else that might delay your claim. Don’t be afraid to ask your agent any questions, even if they seem silly to you. An agent can help you find a reputable disaster restoration company, contractors, emergency housing, and much more. They deal with these situations more often than their clients and have plenty of experience filing insurance claims, so they can be a much needed clear, level head in a time of worry and chaos.
Try to stay calm. This is much easier said than done, but repeated calls won’t make the claims or restoration process go any faster. A fire is a traumatic experience, so take care of yourself by eating healthy meals, sleeping regularly, and seeking counseling if necessary. Let your children’s teachers and counselors know what happened so they can watch for changes in behavior. Try to keep to as many routines as possible, such as eating meals together, reading bedtime stories, or weekly date nights.
What to Do after a Fire – Watch the Video
Fire and Smoke Damage Restoration
The immediate aftermath of a fire is frightening, so you need a fire damage cleanup company you can trust to stop secondary damage from soot, smoke, and water and restore damaged items before it’s too late. In Houston, TX, people trust ServiceMaster Restoration and Cleaning to salvage items damaged by fire and smoke, and restore homes and businesses to their original condition. We use state of the art equipment and the latest restoration techniques to restore the damage from fires of all sizes, remove smoke odors, and dry out wet areas from firefighting efforts. Our highly trained professionals are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to emergencies when you need help the most.
Fire damage restoration costs vary, depending on the extent of the damage and the number of items that need restoration.