After the Fire
When fire strikes, lives are suddenly turned around. Often, the hardest part is knowing where to begin and who to contact. The After the Fire Program is utilized to assist residents in coping with disaster and to help them begin the recovery process.
As part of the After the Fire Program, First Night Free allows residents one free night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Bethel Park to eliminate the burden of wondering where a family is going to stay after a disaster strikes.
The following are some ideas and recommendations as to what to do after a fire occurs in your home:
The First 24 Hours
Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army, to help with your immediate needs, such as:
- temporary housing
- other essential items
Contact your insurance agent/company.
- Do not enter the damaged site. Fires can rekindle from hidden, smoldering remains.
- Normally, the fire department will see that utilities (water, electricity and natural gas) are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. Do not attempt to turn on utilities yourself.
- Be watchful for structural damage caused by the fire. Roofs and floors may be damaged and subject to collapse.
- Food, beverages and medicine exposed to heat, smoke, soot and water should not be consumed.
- Leaving Your Home
- Contact your local police departments to let them know the site will be unoccupied.
- In some cases it may be necessary to board up openings to discourage trespassers.
Beginning immediately, save receipts for any money you spend. These receipts are important in showing the insurance company what money you have spent related to your fire loss and also for verifying losses claimed on your income tax.
If it is safe to do so, try to locate the following items:
- identification, such as driver’s licenses and Social Security cards
- insurance information
- medication information
- eyeglasses,hearing aids or other prosthetic devices
- valuables, such as credit cards, bank books, cash and jewelry
There are many people/entities that should be notified of your relocation, including:
- your insurance agent/company
- your mortgage company (also inform them of the fire)
- your family and friends
- your employer
- your child’s school
- your post office
- any delivery services
- your fire and police departments
- our utility companies
Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made. All damages are taken into consideration in developing your insurance claim.
If you are considering contracting for inventory or repair services discuss your plans with your insurance agent/company first.
Give notice of the loss to the insurance company or the insurer’s agent/company.
Ask the insurance company what to do about the immediate needs of the dwelling, such as covering doors, windows, and other exposed areas, and pumping out water.
Ask your insurance agent/company what actions are required of you. Some policyholders may be required to make an inventory of damaged personal property showing in detail the quantity, description and how much you paid for the items.
Your recovery from a fire loss may be based upon your own resources and help from your community.
Private organizations that may be sources of aid or information:
- American Red Cross
- Salvation Army
- religious organizations
- department of social services
- civic organizations
- state or municipal emergency services office
- non-profit crisis counseling centers
Valuing Your Property
You will encounter different viewpoints on the value of your property in adjusting your fire loss or in claiming a casualty loss on your federal income tax. Knowing the following terms will help you understand the process used to determine the value of your fire loss:
- Your personal valuation:Your personal loss of goods through fire may be difficult to measure. These personal items have SENTIMENTAL VALUE to you; however, it is objective measures of value that you, the insurer, and the Internal Revenue Service will use as a common ground for discussion. Some of these objective measures are discussed below.
- Cost when purchased:This is an important element in establishing an item’s final value. Receipts will help verify the cost price.
- Fair market value before the fire:This concept is also expressed as ACTUAL CASH VALUE. This is what you could have received for the item if you had sold it the day before the fire. The price would reflect its cost at purchase minus the wear it had sustained since purchase. Depreciation is the formal term used to express the amount of value an item loses over a period of time.
- Value after the fire: This is sometimes called the item’s salvage value.
There are companies that specialize in the restoration of fire damaged structures. Whether you or your insurer employs this type of service, be clear of who will pay. Be sure to request an estimate of cost for the work. Before any company is hired check their references. These companies provide a range of services that may include some or all of the following:
- securing the site against further damage
- estimating structural damage
- repairing structural damage
- estimating the cost to repair or renew items of personal property
- packing, transportation, and storage of household items
- securing appropriate cleaning or repair subcontractors
- storing repaired items until needed
Local Restoration Companies
- 1-800-Board-Up of Pittsburgh. 1-800-262-7387
- G.S. Jones & Sons. 412-766-6886
- Disaster Restoration Service of Pittsburgh. 1-800-878-3770
- FireDex of Pittsburgh. 412-343-2226
- Belfor USA Group. 1-800-421-4108
Replacing Documents & Records
Here is a check list of documents you will need to replace if they have been destroyed, and who to contact for information on the replacement process.
|ITEM||WHO TO CONTACT|
|Driver’s license, Auto registration||Department of motor vehicles|
|Bank books (checking, savings, etc.)||Your bank, as soon as possible|
|Insurance policies||Your insurance agent|
|Military discharge papers||Department of Veterans Affairs|
|Birth, death and marriage certificates||Bureau of Records in the appropriate state|
|Divorce papers||Circuit court where decree was issued|
|Social Security or Medicare cards||Local Social Security office|
|Credit cards||The issuing companies, as soon as possible|
|Titles to deeds||Records department of the localityin which the property is located|
|Stocks and bonds||Issuing company or your broker|
|Medical records||Your doctor|
|Income tax records||The IRS Center where filed or your accountant|
|Citizenship papers||U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service|
|Prepaid burial contract||Issuing company|
|Animal registration papers||Humane Society|
|Mortgage papers||Lending institution|
The following checklist serves as a quick reference and guide for you to follow after a fire strikes.
- Contact your local disaster relief service, such as The Red Cross, if you need temporary housing, food and medicines.
- If you are insured, contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property, conducting inventory and contacting fire damage restoration companies. If you are not insured, try contacting private organizations for aid and assistance.
- Check with the fire department to make sure your residence is safe to enter. Be watchful of any structural damage caused by the fire.
- The fire department should see that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
- Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made.
- Try to locate valuable documents and records. Refer to information on contacts and the replacement process inside this brochure.
- If you leave your home, contact the local police department to let them know the site will be unoccupied.
- Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and for verifying losses claimed on income tax.
- Notify your mortgage company of the fire.
- Check with an accountant or the Internal Revenue Service about special benefits for people recovering from fire loss.