A fire in your home, either a house or flat, can have a profound impact on the building. Sometimes the damage is clear. However, in others, it may be less obvious.
Smoke and flames can get into and behind building materials, causing damage that is out of sight but can have long-term effects on the structure’s integrity.
For example, metal fixtures and fittings can more quickly deteriorate and corrode because of the effect of heat and chemicals in smoke generated by the fire.
Smoke particles and tiny fragments of material that flake off fire-damaged items can also trigger a range of illnesses and health problems, such as respiratory conditions and even cancer.
For this reason, it is vital that people who have experienced a fire in their home think clearly about urgent things they must do and what they must not do in the hours and days afterwards.
To help, here is our guide to what to do and what not to do after a fire in your home. So you can recover from the stress the fire caused and get your home back in good order safely and as quickly as possible.
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Listen to fire service advice
If the fire in your home has been serious enough to require the attendance of the fire service, listen carefully to their advice and act on it.
Part of their response is to advise home owners what to do next, both in terms of putting right the damage caused by the fire, and the damage caused by actions taken to put it out.
This might include water damage or damage caused to the structure of the building, for example opening cavities in walls.
Even if the fire service did not attend a fire, it will be happy to advise home owners, not least because it has the chance to share fire prevention expertise. Look on your local fire service website. It is also likely to have good advice you can follow.
Fire services can also signpost you to organisations that provide welfare support after fires, for example if you require temporary accommodation or financial help.
Evidence is the most valuable thing when it comes to making an insurance claim. You should take photographs (and video if you can) to show how bad the damage is. Save these images and video clips in a safe place as quickly as possible. They may be the only proof you will have of the scale of losses and financial cost you have experienced.
Contact your insurance company
Once you have the photographic evidence, your next step should be to contact your insurance company. After speaking with them, you will hopefully have a better idea of the events that will follow, for instance emergency water extraction, boarding up the doors and windows and anything else that needs doing.
Bin food and drink
Do not attempt to keep or consume any food or drink that has been damaged by fire or affected by smoke. Do not try to refreeze food that has thawed as a result of power to your freezer being cut. If you can, open doors in your home to circulate fresh air. But do not leave your home unsecure.
Do not enter
You must not enter the building before the fire service says it is safe to do so. Fire officers will need to check the whole premises, possibly with the help of a structural engineer or building control officer from the council, so this process may take some time.
Do not attempt to turn on, clean or use any electrical items that have been exposed to fire, smoke or water. This includes turning lights on, especially if the ceiling is wet. The fire and the actions taken to put it out, make have damaged both the appliances and electrical wiring.
Water, electricity and gas
You should inform utility providers, including gas, electricity and water, that there has been a fire in your property and not attempt to turn these services back on without their guidance.
Do not attempt to wash any clothes or fabrics, including curtains, in a normal washing machine or take it to the dry cleaners without expert advice. These items are likely to need specialist smoke removal treatment to extract all the toxic smoke from them. Attempting to clean such garments and items yourself, may embed the odour more deeply in the fabric.
Smoke and fire damage cleaning
Fire and smoke damage needs specialist cleaning. If there is anything you are unsure of, contact SafeGroup. As a smoke and fire cleaning and recovery specialist, we would be happy to advise you.
Call SafeGroup on 0800 668 1268.