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What To Do After a Fire

After A Fire

 General

Having a house fire is understandably a very traumatic experience. Depending on the level of damage caused there can be a lot of things you need to consider before you can return and start living as normal in your property. Some of the advice requires that you refer to the internet or a telephone directory. Your local library will provide free access to both the internet and telephone directories if you are unable to access them in your present circumstances.

 

It is possible that parts of your property may be unsafe as a result of the incident. If the fire fighter in charge advised you that any areas are unsafe, ensure that this information is passed on to anyone else entering the property.

 

After a vehicle fire it is your responsibility to arrange for a vehicle to be removed if it is on your property, although you should consult your insurers before doing so and follow their instructions. Most councils offer a vehicle collection service. Alternatively, you can arrange for collection by a garage or scrap merchant by consulting a telephone directory. Some vehicle fires can produce toxic by-products that can be dangerous if they come into contact with the skin. The fire and fire fighting can also cause parts of the vehicle to become sharp and dangerous.

 

Do not touch the engine bay of a vehicle that has been involved in a fire and ensure that anyone who comes into the vicinity of the vehicle is aware that they should not touch it. Always wear disposable gloves if you have to recover valuable items from within the passenger compartment.

 

What should I do first?

 

Security

 

When the fire and rescue service leaves, the building becomes your responsibility and to maintain its security. This is especially important if you intend to make an insurance claim, as failing to secure your property may invalidate your claim. Please don't forget to remove valuables from your property if you are unable to secure it and it is safe to enter

 

If you are unable to occupy the property, remove all valuables and secure all doors, windows and other areas against unauthorised entry where possible before leaving. If any doors or windows cannot be locked, arrange for them to be boarded up by a glazier, either by consulting your local telephone directory or contacting your housing office/landlord. If this is not possible a contractor may be contacted through Fire Control via the Officer-in-Charge on the fire appliance

 

When it is necessary for the fire and rescue service to cover a roof with tarpaulins they are usually on loan. After a short period of time there is a charge, per day, and therefore you should make arrangements to have these items replaced. It is impossible for us to state whether such expenses are covered by your insurance policy and it is therefore essential to telephone your agent or broker as soon as possible.

 

If the premises are to be left unoccupied, contact your local Police Station and inform them and ask for a reference number to ensure the call can be traced by your insurance company if required. Fire fighters need to determine the cause of the fire and if it looks like the fire was caused deliberately, the police will be notified. The police may seal off part of your property. Please make sure you do not enter sealed off areas

 

After a chimney fire place a metal bucket, half filled with water, in the fireplace to catch any falling debris. Ensure that the fireguard is in place. You should leave the chimney for a minimum of 24 hours and ensure that it is swept before re-using. Chimneys should be swept at least once a year, twice a year if you burn logs in your fireplace

 

Health

 

Any casualties resulting from the incident will have been treated at the scene by the ambulance service. However, some medical problems such as shock can be delayed. If you have concerns about your health or the health of anyone else involved in the incident, contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 for advice.If you suffer from any respiratory problems and you have inhaled smoke or you feel unwell after a fire seek immediate medical assistance from your GP or go to your nearest Hospital Accident and Emergency Department. Try to get someone to go with you.

Air in the home

Fires produce gases, chemicals and particles in the air. These can make you ill if you breathe them in and can be in the air for hours or even days after a fire. Here are just a few tips to help you protect your health

    Protect yourself by wearing clothing that covers your skin, gloves and a good quality dust mask that covers your mouth and nose

    If you have breathing problems, asthma or allergies don’t go into the property until you know the air is clear.

    Fire and flood companies have special equipment that can clear the air. If you are insured their charges are normally covered.

Avoid contact with residue from fires

Residue from fires may contain harmful chemicals and therefore care should be taken care of the following:-

    You should not touch the residue with bare skin.

    If you have to handle items with residue on, wear gloves, clothing that covers your skin and a mask that covers your mouth and nose.

 

 

Accommodation

 

If your accommodation is not habitable and you cannot stay with friends or relatives it may be necessary to make alternative arrangements. Contact the Housing Department of your Local Authority who may be able to assist. Otherwise your insurance policy may cover the cost of bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation. This should always be checked with your insurance company and arrangements made accordingly.

 

Is the Building Safe?

 

After a fire has been extinguished it will take many hours for the building to cool down. During this time noises may be heard coming from the area involved. Due to the expansion and contraction of different areas of the building, parts of it may become dislodged and fall. If you have to enter make sure you protect yourself with a hard hat. Often walls must be opened by fire fighters to ensure that no 'hidden' fires still burn. Consequently after the fire, damage may appear excessive but we must ensure that there is no possibility of further risk from fire.

Can I Use My Gas, Electric and Water?

 

It is likely that the fire and rescue service will have isolated gas, electric and water supplies. It is possible that gas, electricity or water supplies will have been turned off as a result of the incident. Never turn utilities back on until they have been checked by the utility provider, or other competent person. This can be arranged by your landlord/housing office. Alternatively details of technicians can be found in your telephone directory if you are the owner of the property. Do not use any electrical appliances that have come into contact with fire or water until they have been checked and cleared for use by a qualified electrician. Failure to do so may result in a fire or flood.

 

Insurance Issues

 

If you are insured your insurance will be the single most important component in recovering from a fire loss. It is extremely important to contact your insurance representative as soon as possible after a fire. They may wish to inspect your property or contents before anything is moved or disposed of. If you do incur expenses it is essential to keep receipts of any expenditure for your claim

You may have two separate policies, one for the building and one for the contents which may be issued with different companies. Ensure you contact them both. There may be a couple of things your insurer will want you to do, for example: Protect the property from further damage by making reasonable repairs such as covering holes in the roof or walls. Take reasonable precautions against loss, such as draining water pipes in the winter if the house will be unheated for some time.

Make an inventory of damaged personal property showing in detail the quantity, description, what you paid for the items when purchased, how long you have had the items, the amount of damage they sustained, and how much it would cost to replace them. Include with the inventory any bills or documents which can help establish the items' value. Besides your obligations to the insurer, you also have a responsibility to inform your mortgage company (where applicable) of the fire and to keep them informed of activities to restore the property.

 

Getting Copies of Lost Documents

 

Bank and building society books: Your Bank or Building Society can issue statements or duplicate books.

Bank Cards Debit Cards Credit Cards: Contact your bank or Building Society and your Credit Card companies.

Birth, marriage and death certificates: Contact the original Office of Registration, they will provide duplicates.

Divorce decree: Contact the Court Office where the decree was made, they will assist in providing duplicates.

House Deeds: Contact your Solicitor.

Household Insurance Certificates: Your Insurance Company will provide a duplicate home Insurance Certificate.

Driving licence and vehicle documents: All types of driving licences may be replaced by the DVLC, Swansea, SA99 1AT.

Car Insurance Certificates: Your Insurance Company will provide a duplicate vehicle Insurance Certificate.

MOT test certificate: You will need to contact the garage which issued your MOT certificate for a replacement.

Income tax records: Your employer will know which Tax Office to contact.

Payment books: Contact the organisation you are paying.

Pension book and benefit books: Contact your local Department of Health and Social Security Office or call free on 0800 666555 for advice.

Company pension documentation: Contact your previous employers

Travel documents: Contact the Travel Agents who made your original booking.

Passports: Contact your relevant passport office.

Appliance Warranties: Contact the manufacturers of each product.

 

These are just some of the items lost in a fire which can be difficult to replace or even remember the companies of issue/origin. We therefore suggest investing in a Fire Safe to keep these important documents safe. Please follow the link for some alternatives for you

 

(LINK TO SAFES)

What Should We Do With Food and Cooking Utensils?

 

Wash your canned and jars of goods in detergent and water. If labels come off, be sure you mark the contents on the can or jar with an indelible marker. All food sealed in glass jars or undamaged tins should be OK if it has not been subjected to any heat. Do not use canned goods when cans have bulged, dented, rusted or have signs of contamination. Your pots, pans, etc., should be washed with soapy water, rinsed, and then polished with a fine-powdered cleaner. You can polish copper and brass with special polish, salt sprinkled on a piece of lemon, or salt sprinkled on a cloth saturated with vinegar.

 

 

You’re Food and Freezer?

 

If your home freezer has stopped running, you may still be able to save the frozen food by keep the freezer closed. Your freezer may have enough insulation to keep food frozen for at least one day, perhaps for as many as two or three days. The temperature of the freezer inside should be checked before the food inside is used. Try to move your food to a neighbour's freezer or rented locker. When transporting frozen food to an alternative location wrap the frozen food in newspapers and blankets or use insulated boxes. Never refreeze food that has thawed.

 

To remove odour from your refrigerator or freezer you can wash the inside with a solution of baking soda and water, or use one cup of vinegar or household ammonia to one gallon of water. Alternatively place baking soda or a piece of charcoal in an open container in the refrigerator or freezer to absorb odour. your contents insurance may cover the loss of any frozen food.

Can Electrical Appliances be used?

 

Do not use machines that have been exposed to water or steam until you have a service representative check them. This is especially true of electrical appliances. In addition, steam and heat can remove lubricant from some moving parts and therefore checks should be made before their use. If the Fire Service turned off your gas or power during the fire, call the electric or gas Company to restore these services. Never try to turn on utilities yourself as this may invalidate your Insurance and cause more damage.

 

What Do We Do With Our Furniture?

 

If your premises are not habitable then furniture may need storing in a storage facility. Upholstered furniture may be soiled, stained and wet and therefore care should be taken deciding what to store. Specialist cleaners can also be contacted to clean underlay, carpet, curtains and upholstery to remove stains and smell. Any other furniture should be moved from wet or damp areas and allowed to dry in a well-ventilated place after removing drawers and stored items.

 

Advice can be sought from “Furniture repair and restoration” companies. Do not dry your wooden furniture and fixtures in the sun as the wood will warp and twist out of shape. Clear and excess water mud or dirt and remove any drawers. Let all items dry thoroughly so there will be no sticking when you replace the drawers.

 

Clean with a cleaning solution suitable for wood and remember wet wood can decay and mould, so take your time to dry thoroughly. Open all doors and windows to give good ventilation. If mould forms, wipe the wood with a cloth soaked in a mixture of borax dissolved in hot water (Check manufacturer’s instructions for quantities). To remove white spots or film you can rub wood surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of household ammonia and cup of water.

 

Then wipe dry and polish with wax, or rub the surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of cup turpentine and cup linseed oil. Be careful, turpentine is combustible (will burn). You can also rub the wood surface with a steel wool pad dipped in liquid polishing wax, wipe with a soft cloth and then buff.

 

Do not use LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) heaters to dry out items as they create additional water vapour. Only use De-humidifiers which will remove water from the atmosphere.

Rugs, Flooring, Clothing and Bedding

 

Wall to wall carpet is best cleaned with a wet/dry vacuum cleaner; these may be hired from carpet stores, dry cleaning shops or tool hire companies. However, after becoming wet wall-to-wall carpeting usually will never return to its former size and may usually have to be thrown away. It is prudent to keep a piece of all discarded floor covering so your Insurance Loss Adjuster can assess its original value.

 

If you have rugs they should be dried quickly and thoroughly. They can be swept and vacuumed and then cleaned with a commercial rug shampoo. Lay the rug on a flat surface and expose to a circulation of warm, dry air. A fan directed over the rug will speed the drying but be careful to ensure no moisture remains at the base of the tufts as this will rot the rug.

 

For expensive floor coverings it is essential to contact a professional carpet cleaning company as more damage could be done during the cleaning process. Other floor coverings, such as vinyl, should be lifted to prevent mildew and therefore should be allowed to thoroughly drying out before refitting.

 

Remember: Always try to use a professional to carry out any work if the final payment is going to be paid by your insurance company. Before any financial commitments are made check with your Insurance company first.

 

Take care with Clothing to always read the care labels for proper instructions as most clothing and bedding is capable of laundering in a domestic washing machine. Always test coloured garments before using any treatment.

 

Chimney Fires 

     After the fire, the chimney may remain hot for several hours.

     Don't be alarmed at creaking noises after the fire - they are caused by the chimney cooling down.

     Put a non-combustible container in the fireplace, and half fill with water. This will catch any hot debris falling from the chimney.

     Put a fireguard around the fireplace.

     Don't relight the fire for 24 hours and have the chimney swept as soon as possible.

     Thereafter get it swept once a year - twice a year if you burn peat or wood.

     Have any metal flues checked by an installer before re-use.

     If a very old house or thatched cottage, the Fire & Rescue Service will have taken extra precautions because of the chance of the fire spreading to hidden beams etc...

If you have any cause to think that you still have a problem call 999 again.

 

We appreciate that having a fire can be a very traumatic event but hope this helps ease some of the issues you may be facing.

 

 

 

Flooring

When water gets underneath linoleum, it can cause odours and warp the wood floor. If this happens, remove the entire sheet. If the linoleum is brittle, a heat lamp will soften it so it can be rolled up without breaking. If carefully removed, it can be re-cemented after the floor has completely dried. Small blisters in linoleum can be punctured with a nail and re-cemented if you are careful. Weigh down the linoleum with bricks or boards. It is usually possible to cement loose tiles of any type. Wait until the floor is completely dry before beginning.

Clothing

Before treating, always read the Care Label for proper instructions.

Smoke odour and soot can sometimes be washed from clothing.

To remove mildew, wash the fresh stain with soap and warm water. Then rinse and

dry in fresh air. If the stain has not disappeared or if in doubt contact your local dry

cleaners.

Most clothing and bedding is capable of laundering in a domestic washing machine. Test coloured garments before using any treatment.

If you are taking woollen, silk, or rayon garments to the cleaners, first remove trimmings, shoulder pads, etc., then, if the garment is damp or wet, dry it in a well-ventilated area. Shake and brush well and take the garment to the cleaners as soon as possible.

 

Cleaning/damage

Flames, hot gasses, smoke and water can all have damaging effects but there is plenty that you can do to salvage damaged property. Check your telephone directory for:

  • Companies that specialise in recovering documents and valuable items from fire or water damage.
  • Cleaning companies/companies that hire specialist recovery equipment, such as wet vacuum cleaners.
  • Furniture repair/restoration companies.

 

Other tips:

  • Important: items like food or medicines may have been damaged or contaminated as a result of the incident. The best policy with food or medicines is not to take risks. If in doubt, dispose of food and medicines and replace them. You can speak to your GP surgery about replacing prescription medicines. If you need advice outside surgery opening hours call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.
  • Do not use any electrical appliances that have come into contact with fire or water until they have been checked and cleared for use by a qualified electrician.
  • Ventilating your property will help to dry it out and get rid of the smell of smoke. Opening windows and doors will speed the process (ensure this doesn't put the security of your property at risk).
  • Heating your property or using dehumidifiers will speed up the drying process.
    • Smoke stains can be removed from some painted walls and ceilings using sugar soap.