A house fire can be one of the most stressful experiences of your life. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed as you grieve the loss, struggle with the “if only's” and “what ifs,” and face an uncertain future. Comforting family members and pets in the process of dealing with your own emotional struggles only add to the fatigue. How do you begin your journey back to normal?
Your first step is to take a step back. Once the first responders have put out the fire and you are face-to-face with your home, you may be tempted to jump in, assess the damage, and even start cleaning up the mess in an effort to get back to normal. However, this is when It’s most important that you take a deep breath, step back, and allow the professionals to take the lead.
Do not enter your home under any circumstances until you have been given permission to do so. The same goes for turning on utilities or starting a damaged vehicle. Even if a situation appears safe, without obvious flames or smoke, dangerous chemicals or structural damage can put you at serious risk.
Getting your insurance claim started is a vital first step in the direction toward recovery. Your insurance company will help you file a claim, authorize a fire restoration company, and begin the process of replacing your belongings.
Since fire damage includes soot and flames from the fire itself as well as water and structural damage resulting from extinguishing the fire, it is important that you act fast. Your insurance company will provide a timeline for removing standing water and securing the property.
A professional fire restoration company not only brings your property back to its original condition but helps you secure your property immediately after the fire and find a safe place to stay. Both of these steps are crucial to your physical and emotional well-being.
Depending on the scope of the fire, you may need a place from a few days to several months. Even minor fires require a thorough inspection and cleaning before you can safely reoccupy the home. Restoration companies like Shambaugh’s Cleaning & Restoration help you and your family temporarily relocate to a safe place where you can begin to recuperate from the stress of the event and begin the process of restoring your home. They will also help you secure your damaged home––boarding up windows and doors and securing tarps over openings––to protect it from weather and people.
Finally, your restoration company will begin the process of repairing your property with professional fire and smoke damage restoration, general contracting and reconstruction, and content cleaning.
When your life feels out of control after a house fire, getting organized is one way to take charge. Start an electronic file and/or notebook where you record your conversations with your insurance and restoration companies, keep a running list of questions and to-do’s, and take inventory of items lost in the fire. Also, hold on to all of your receipts for expenses incurred during your time away from home; you will need them for reimbursement from your insurance company.
Moving forward a little bit each day is important in restoring your life to normalcy. However, don’t overlook you and your family’s emotional health in the process. A house fire is a traumatic event. The American Red Cross recommends that if you or a loved one experience some of these feelings for two weeks or longer, you should reach out for assistance:
Above all, give yourself some grace and keep perspective. A house fire is a major event, and you don’t have to fix everything all at once. You can’t. With emotional support and the right help from experienced professionals, however, you can focus on moving forward one step at a time. You and your family will get there.