No one opens a business assuming they’ll one day need to rebuild after a fire. But heat-generating appliances can malfunction, electrical wiring can become old and damaged, and humans can make errors while cooking or operating equipment. These are just a few things that can go wrong and start a fire.
Once everyone has safely evacuated and the flames have been extinguished, what’s next? The prospect of getting your business back to normal can feel overwhelming. Rest assured that a fire damage restoration company can repair your fire-damaged building, a more cost-effective solution than demolishing and rebuilding from scratch. In this guide, you’ll learn what to do after a building fire, how to repair a fire-damaged building, and the reasons to hire a professional for the job.
What to Do After a Building Fire
The chance of successfully restoring your building is higher if you act quickly. After all, allowing water and acidic smoke residue to linger is bound to make things worse. Here are five steps to take after a building fire.
1. Prioritize Safety
People are your top priority, so make sure everyone is safe and accounted for. Seek medical attention if necessary for burns and smoke inhalation. Then, be aware that structural instability, live electrical wires, gas leaks, and other concerns could make the building unsafe. So while you may be tempted to reenter, stay out if authorities place a warning sign on the entrance.
2. Check the Building
Once the proper authorities tell you it’s safe to enter the fire-damaged building, do so cautiously. If the front door is stuck, don’t force it open because it could be providing structural support. You’ll need to find another way to enter the building.
Don protective clothing before going inside, including long pants, long sleeves, durable shoes, work gloves, safety goggles, a hard hat, and a dust mask. Then, beware of animals that may have entered since the fire. Open the windows to air out the interior, weather permitting. If you detect gas odors or other fumes, leave immediately.
To avoid electrical safety issues, turn off the power at the main breaker box. If water has pooled on the floor in front of the electrical panel, use a dry stick to flip the breaker. Then, continue your inspection using a flashlight, not candles or other open flames.
3. Document the Damage
Photograph or videotape damaged contents and building materials as you move from room to room. Document the outside of the building as well. Be thorough to help prove your losses to the insurance company. If you don’t feel comfortable navigating the fire-damaged building or documenting losses yourself, await a professional inspection and damage assessment from a fire restoration company.
4. Contact Your Insurer
Call your insurance provider to report the fire. Be prepared to offer a general description of how and when the fire started, as well as where and what damage occurred. Have a list of damaged or destroyed items on hand and provide receipts or replacement cost estimates. Photos and video footage will help support your claim. If possible, hold onto damaged items until an insurance adjuster has visited your business.
5. Contact a Fire Damage Restoration Company
If you haven’t gotten in touch with a restoration company yet, do so now. A professional can help you navigate the steps outlined above. Plus, the sooner you call, the faster you can begin the restoration process.
Guide for Restoring Fire Damage to a Building
Commercial building restoration typically takes a few weeks to a few months to complete, depending on the cause and the extent of the damage. You should get started without delay so you can reopen your business as soon as possible. Here are the six steps involved.
1. Mitigate Further Damage
As soon as emergency responders have deemed the building safe to reenter, a fire damage restoration team can get to work. The first step is to seal off any areas where the fire didn’t reach to prevent the spread of soot particles and smoke odors. If the roof is damaged, tarping keeps rain and snow out until repairs can be completed. Technicians should also board up broken windows and doors to keep looters and wild animals out. Securing your property with these tips helps mitigate further damage while the building repair process is underway.
2. Pack Out Building Contents
Work with your fire restoration company to pack out salvageable contents. Some providers offer a secure, climate-controlled storage facility to protect your belongings during fire restoration. You’ll also need to dispose of unsalvageable items, which may include water-logged carpeting, burned drywall, and charred furniture. Fire repair experts can help you decide what’s worth saving based on sentimental value, importance, and replacement cost.
3. Dry Out the Building
Once the property is cleared out, restoration work can begin. The first step is often to remove standing water left by fire hoses, automatic sprinkler systems, and burst pipes resulting from the excessive heat. Your provider should also offer water damage cleanup and mold remediation, services closely tied to fire restoration.
4. Remove Smoke Residue & Odors
Water isn’t the only lingering substance after a fire. Smoke damage may also be significant. The acidic and corrosive nature of smoke residue can eat away at building materials and electronics, so time is of the essence. Removing smoke residue involves careful scrubbing, vacuuming, and other thorough cleaning techniques.
Then, there’s the lingering smoky smell. Professionals use advanced deodorization and air filtration equipment to remove stubborn odors that can permeate any porous substance, from window coverings to wood floors to drywall.
5. Clean & Restore Building Contents
Earlier in the process, technicians packed out your contents for safekeeping while they worked on the building. Next, the focus shifts to cleaning and restoring these belongings. This process may include removing acidic smoke residue from sensitive electronics, deodorizing smoke-damaged upholstery, laundering textiles, and drying out books and documents. The technicians will salvage as many of your items as possible. The rest will need to be replaced with money you collect from your insurance company.
6. Rebuild the Fire-Damaged Structure
The final step of fire damage restoration is to rebuild the parts of the building that can’t be restored. This involves tearing out and replacing charred materials. The reconstruction process is your chance to add additional fire safety systems that may not have been present before, such as fire sprinklers, fire alarms, and automatic fire suppression. This is also a good time to update your disaster plan, recharge spent fire extinguishers, and replenish emergency supplies.
Why You Should Hire a Professional Company to Repair a Fire-Damaged Building
You may wonder how much of the fire restoration process you can handle yourself. Or perhaps you should bring a general contractor on board. In reality, the best choice is to hire a professional fire damage restoration company. Here are four ways you’ll benefit when you do.
1. Get Help Immediately
When a fire damages your building outside regular business hours, you don’t want to be left waiting overnight for help to arrive. The best restoration companies understand this, which is why they take your call 24 hours a day. This means you can reach out in the middle of the night, on the weekend, or on a holiday, and you’ll get the help you need. This typically isn’t the case with general contractors, which don’t operate on an emergency basis.
2. Locate Hidden Fire Damage
Visibly charred belongings are easy to spot, but not all fire damage is this apparent. Indeed, smoke can permeate the walls and travel through the air ducts, spreading the damage far from where the flames burned. Professionals know how to spot this hidden damage that may go unnoticed at first glance.
3. Enjoy Safe, Thorough Services
Fire damage restoration is a dirty, hazardous job. Don’t put yourself at risk—hand the task over to an experienced crew that follows strict OSHA standards for their own safety and your peace of mind. Professionals also have access to state-of-the-art tools and years of industry knowledge to help restoration work go smoothly.
4. Expedite the Insurance Claims Process
Your to-do list during the fire damage repair process is a mile long. Remove one responsibility from your shoulders by letting the restoration company handle your insurance claims. They can submit proof of losses and repair estimates while advocating on your behalf to ensure you get the coverage you deserve.
Contact BYLT for Commercial Fire Damage Restoration in Maryland and Washington, DC
No matter what caused your commercial building fire, BYLT is here to help with the repair, restoration, and reconstruction process. Our team has over 100 years of combined experience and offers the fast response times you expect in an emergency. We focus on providing exceptional results backed by a five-year workmanship warranty, so no one will ever know your building sustained fire damage. Call us at (410) 770-2900 or contact us online to request commercial fire damage restoration in Maryland and Washington, DC.