Fires can wreak havoc. But sometimes what is left behind after a fire can be even more devastating — bio-hazardous residue. If it’s not taken care of properly, it can cause severe health problems, further damage to the property, or issues even after the restoration. Things like not securing the property, not testing and cleaning the sprinkler systems properly, and not addressing air quality after a fire, can potentially cause compounding issues.
You might be thinking, “Why is this important? What are the chances of this happening to my business?” In 2018, U.S. National estimates for nonresidential building fires are as follows:
• Fires: 103,600
• Deaths: 85
• Injuries: 1,025
• Dollar loss: $26.5 billion
In the 10-year period between 2009 and 2018, both the number of fires and fire-related deaths have increased. Having a plan in place can help not only prevent a fire, but also mitigate the amount of damage after a fire has happened.
The fire damage restoration process is quite complicated and includes more than just a simple clean-up. If you have a fire restoration plan in place, it will save you time and money when disaster strikes. The first 48 hours after a fire are the most important for recovery. Can you imagine how chaotic the moments after a fire will be? Having a plan already in place will allow you to determine which steps need to be taken to get your business back up and running as quickly as possible.
What to Include in your Fire Restoration Plan
Assess the safety of the building: Making sure the building structure is stabilized is the top priority. Depending on the extent of the damage, multiple parties may be involved with getting access to the property to perform services, including fire departments, municipalities, engineers, environmental agencies, and insurance providers. Do you have the contacts in place to coordinate each of these services to ensure recovery can move forward in a timely manner? If not, you may face delays in the process as well as create safety issues, and end up costing the business more money and time.
Secure the property: Fires often attract a lot of attention. People are naturally curious about what the damage looks like inside. The additional attention and open access may also appeal to looters. Employees may also want to reenter the building as soon as possible to recover important personal items. Securing the property is extremely important. This may include bringing in security guards, boarding up parts of the building, or setting up a fence. If these precautions are not taken, it’s possible to suffer further building damage or risk someone getting injured.
Salvage contents: Once officials deem an area safe to enter, experts will need to assess the damage to internal systems such as the plumbing and ventilation to see whether it’s salvageable. All property such as furniture, equipment and documents must be removed from the building to ensure safety and may need to be tested for asbestos. Many original building materials in older buildings contain asbestos and can contaminate the items inside the property during a fire.
Plan for back-up power: You may experience utility interruption after a fire, including temporary loss of electrical, gas, and phone systems. Having temporary power services in place allow for a faster restoration process because the restoration teams are going to need power source for their equipment. Having a plan for back-up power will help to get your business up and running in a timely manner.
Coordinate with you Insurance Provider: Everything must be documented and coordinated with the insurance company. Many corporations have full-time staff members to manage insurance claims because it’s that demanding of a project. If information doesn’t get submitted properly to the insurance company, then the insurance claim could potentially end up costing you your business. Make sure you have the proper people and steps in place to handle the insurance claim.
Clean everything: All areas of the business will then need to be cleaned and deodorized, including the walls, floors, ceilings and carpets. While that might seem like the end of the process, further steps are essential to preventing additional damage that can set in after a fire. Hidden fire damages, detailed below, also need to be carefully addressed.
Beware of Hidden Fire Damage
Even if a fire only strikes one part of the building, it can set off all kinds of chain reactions, causing damage throughout the rest of the building.
Sprinkler water damage: If your facility had suppression sprinklers go off during the fire, water from the sprinklers may have leaked down to lower floors. This water damage will need to be properly mitigated so that mold does not set in.
Spreading smoke: Depending on how your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system is configured, it may carry smoke and soot from the fire throughout the building, which is extremely dangerous to inhale. Smoke and soot also leave behind strong odors and acidic residues that can cause discoloration and corrosion on many different surfaces. Restoration efforts must decontaminate these systems, to create a clean and breathable environment.
Asbestos: Many original building materials, especially from older buildings, may contain asbestos. Experiencing a fire can expose the asbestos in these materials, creating a hazardous situation. If post-fire testing indicates the presence of asbestos particles, you may face immediate access restrictions to your property. Additionally, all the materials, furniture and equipment located in any areas where asbestos is found will no longer be salvageable.
Why You Need a Professional Restoration Company
As you can see, there are many important steps that need to be taken care of after a fire. When disaster strikes, the last thing you want to think about is having to coordinate the entire fire restoration process on your own. Chances are, you’ll be busy communicating with employees, coordinating temporary workspace, and overseeing other aspects of the business, and not be able to devote your time to managing a fire restoration properly. A professional restoration company can take care of every step of the process for you, allowing you to focus on your business and employees.
The hard work of putting out a fire is just the beginning. FIRST ONSITE is here to help with every aspect of the fire recovery process. From assessing structural concerns and extracting water to removing soot and toxins, we’ll work with you to get your business back up and running safely and effectively. Save time, money, and the headache of trying to navigate through the restoration process alone and partner with us.
To learn more about the fire recovery process, download this free fire restoration guide and discover:
• Types of damage that can result from a fire
• Key steps in the fire recovery process
• Four key items to consider in a fire response plan