What to Do Before You Return Home After a Home Fire

Home fires are a subject we don't want to think about, but they happen. Even a small home fire can be life-changing and present significant challenges. Even if your home survives a fire structurally, it still may not be inhabitable due to smoke and water damage and environmental conditions.

Here are some tips to keep you safe if your home in Champaign County ever endures a fire.

Don’t move back in just because everything looks fine.

Your home at first appear safe to return to, but there can be hidden damage. You should have your home thoroughly inspected by licensed professionals before returning. And this means more than one professional. You may need an inspection from several specialists, including a structural engineer, an industrial hygienist, and a plumber.

This might seem to be going overboard, especially since it will cost money and you just want to get back to normal. But a fire can cause damage to your home that you can't see, and may later be dangerous to your family. Your safety depends on the structural integrity of your home and the functioning of it's systems. While smoke damage is visible on walls and ceilings, it can also permeate these surfaces and cause damage to a home's structure/framing, wall studs, insulation and air ducts in your ventilation system. When soot and smoke particles become trapped in the HVAC system, the smoke odor can reoccur periodically and even cause respiratory problems.

Consider the clean up requirements. 

If your house has been damaged rather than destroyed, interior clean up will be required. Keep in mind that damage to the property often goes beyond what the eye can see. (Removal of a destroyed house should only be done by professionals.) You should spend a little time assessing whether you think you can perform the clean up or if you'll need professional cleaners. You will find it useful to discuss this with your insurance company. 

Consider such things as:

  • The types of damage including soot, ash, charring, smoke, odor, etc.
  • Damage to a single room - this may be something you can manage yourself
  • Extensive damage - leave it alone and call in the professionals

Be wary of ashes

Ash from a home fire can and will get everywhere and may take some time to clean up. Ash usually contains a small amount of cancer-causing chemicals. Ash can also irritate your skin. Even worse, if you breathe it in, it can irritate your nose, throat, and lungs and may trigger asthmatic attacks in people who already have asthma.

If any ash has settled around your property, you should take care when working around it by wearing gloves, long sleeved shirts, and long pants and avoid skin contact. Also keep leaf blowers away from ash and leave any serious cleanup work to the professionals.

Hire a public adjuster

You will need to have your home assessed for insurance purposes, and that will entail having an insurance adjuster come out. However, the adjuster your company wants to send out works for them. A public adjuster works for you, and is a better way to ensure that you get as much money as you can to repair or replace the damaged items in your home.

A home fire can be a terrible experience. But with these tips, you can recover safely and move on with your life.

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