Fire is a catastrophic event for any business. While it is more common in restaurants, kitchen supply stores, and automotive stores, just about any business can be threatened by the flames. Especially in older buildings where outdated wiring can lead to a heightened risk of an electrical fire.
If your business has been damaged by a fire of any size, the shock and despair can make it hard to know what to do. In times like this, you can turn to the helpful tips in this article to help you understand the best possible steps for dealing with a business damaged by fire.
Step One: Contact Your Insurance Provider
Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. Even if the building is still in process of being put out, the insurance company rep can help you understand more about your coverage as well as the procedural steps needed to ensure everything is documented properly.
You need to document everything at every step along the way. This includes taking notes about the extent of the damage, as well as photos of everything the flames touched. Be sure to also take pictures of smoke damage, and water damage as well as potential damage caused by the firefighters. This will help expedite the claims process as well as proving handy if there are some lingering liability issues with the state of the commercial property.
Your insurance company can also address things like
- Scheduling an inspection to assess the damage
- Inform you about any deadlines for proof of loss statements
- Recommend an approved fire remediation specialist like Building Services Inc.
Step Two: Have All Utilities Turned Off Or Deactivated
Once the fire department issues the “All Clear” you should have the utilities turned off to the building. If the fire department is still on-site, they might be able to take care of this for you. Otherwise contact the local municipality and utility companies to ensure that the gas, electricity, water, and other utilities are disconnected.
Make sure that you have the all-clear from a professional inspector, or the utility company before reconnecting any service. There might be unknown safety hazards or regulations that need to be addressed before a utility can be reactivated.
Step Three: Have Site Safety Inspected
The Fire Department and any other pertinent inspectors will need to investigate the site to ensure that specific areas are safe before people can enter. Make sure to obtain this authorization before going back into the fire-damaged building to recover any salvageable property or personal items.
Step Four: Assess The Damage To Valuables
It can be hard for most business owners and property managers to assess the cost of damaged flooring, carpets, and structures within the building. Though things like furniture, art objects, computers, and other high-value items in the fire-damaged area can be documented before removing them from the premises.
While you are assessing the damage, make sure to take copious photographs. If possible, leave all salvageable items in place until an inspector approves them for removal. If you start pulling things out of the fire-damaged wreckage without approval, the insurance company might dispute the extent of the damage later on in the claims process.
Step Five: Secure The Site
It’s a sad reality that curious people, scrappers, and vandals are drawn to damaged buildings and fire scenes. Taking the extra steps to properly secure the site will go a long way toward preventing unwanted personnel from causing further damage or potentially pilfering the valuable items that might still remain in the fire-damaged building.
This might include things like boarding up the windows and installing new locks on doors or securing tarps to keep out the rain. Placing caution tape to make sure people realize it is a secured site is also a nice touch. You might want to also consider installing remote security cameras just in case some unauthorized person does happen to enter the property during off-hours.
Step Six: Contact A Fire Remediation Specialist
Unless the fire damage is incredibly minimal, chances are good that you don’t have the skills and expertise to safely remediate a fire-damaged building. Not to mention that a lot of inspectors, insurance companies, and municipalities require professional documentation of the remediation and repair process.
In a time like this, you can turn to fire remediation specialists like Building Services Inc. to handle the fire remediation process. We have the highly trained technicians and equipment to handle most fire-damaged buildings. This includes proper disposal of affected materials, as well as the kind of professional documentation that will help streamline the claims process.
Step Seven: Gather All Documentation & Make Copies
Documentation is absolutely essential for completing and expediting the claims process. Take the time to gather all pertinent information related to the fire. This might include potential liability concerns, photos of damaged materials, a list with photographs of valuables removed from the site, and signed statements. If possible, try to also get a copy of the Fire Marshall’s report about the incident.
Then make at least two, if not three copies of all documents before submitting them to the insurance company. Make sure to file at least one copy in a highly secure location, where you can review the information in the future if the insurance company has any questions, or they happen to be missing something.
Step Six: Be Patient
The fire remediation, repair, and insurance claims process take time. It is a time where patience is indeed a virtue. Though you also need to stay on top of the details. Insurance companies can sometimes stall out the process of paying a claim for the smallest of reasons. Even a modest discrepancy in the documentation can hold them up.
The general rule of thumb is to touch base with your insurance company every 30 days. This can prompt them to keep the process moving forward. If there is a question or concern, you can get to work finding the necessary information to expedite the process.
That’s where having a partner like Building Services on your side comes in handy. Our fire remediation specialists have decades of experience working with business owners and insurance companies to provide the kind of detailed accurate information to help expedite the fire damage claims process.