Smoke and Fire Damage
After the fire is extinguished, the remaining structure and the contents within are often damaged from exposure to water and smoke. Smoke can cause extensive damage to the home and valuables, and its remediation requires the services of a skilled technician. Scorched areas of a structure, such as wood and drywall, are often not salvageable and must be replaced. Even items not directly touched by the fire can sustain heat damage, requiring them to be restored or, in some cases, completely replaced.
Repairing the water damage caused by flooding or broken pipes often requires the services of a water extraction contractor and the extensive use of dehumidifiers in order to remove as much moisture as possible from your home. Companies that provide disaster recovery services typically offer mold remediation and emergency drying services as well.
Tornadoes, hurricanes, and wind storms can result in power loss and damage to the home’s roof and exterior. Disaster recovery specialists use emergency generators, from 5500 watts to 400 kilowatts, to address power outages. They may also offer debris removal and roof and gutter repair services as part of their overall service package.
Disaster Recovery Process
Once any immediate danger has been assessed and mitigated by the appropriate emergency services personnel, it is important to call a disaster recovery company as soon as possible. Damage from fire, water, or natural disasters often leaves a home open to the elements, which only adds to the list of existing problems. After inspecting your property to determine the level of damage that has occurred, disaster recovery technicians will secure tarps over any breaches in the roof or siding and will cover open or broken windows with boards.
To help prevent mold from growing, recovery technicians will begin by removing any water in the floors, walls, or ceilings. Most companies begin by using water-extraction tools and will then strategically place dehumidifiers around the home to continue the process.
If fire or smoke damage has occurred, the next step will involve cleaning soot from all affected surfaces. Depending on the surface being cleaned, the technicians may use different detergents and cleaners. An alkaline cleaning solution will neutralize acids in soot-stained textiles, which can then be washed as normal, in most cases. A contractor or structural engineer should assess any suspected structural damage.
The technicians will then turn their attention to your belongings that have been damaged. The goal is to, as much as possible, restore everything to its predisaster condition. The technicians will use a variety of cleaning agents and techniques depending on the item. If necessary, they will use antimicrobial treatments to sanitize. Water, smoke, and fire damage can cause unpleasant odors, so the technicians will bring air-scrubbing equipment into the home to remove these odors.
Once your damaged belongings have been restored, the final step in the disaster recovery process is returning your home to its predisaster condition. This may only involve a few simple repairs to your drywall or flooring, or it may involve replacing all of the flooring in your home or performing major construction work in several rooms.
Regardless of how much work the restoration will require, a disaster recovery company will be able to help. Many companies offer packing and storage services, so if the restoration involves major construction, you will not need to coordinate with a separate company to protect your personal effects while the work is being performed.
Before Calling the Experts
Disaster recovery companies often offer emergency services 24 hours a day, so an afflicted homeowner can get help quickly. The specifics of homeowners’ insurance policies vary widely based on many factors, so it is vital that you contact your insurance agent as soon as possible if your home sustains damage.
Your insurance agent will be able to explain what your policy covers and how much you can expect to pay out of pocket for repairs. He or she will likely arrange for an insurance adjuster to assess the damage and make recommendations for repairs. In some cases, your insurance company will provide you with a list of approved or preferred vendors to choose from, or your agent may contact a disaster recovery company on your behalf.
Keep in mind that if you’re dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster that has affected many people in your area, your insurance company will likely be handling thousands of claims at once and may not be able to send an adjuster out immediately to assess the damage. Nonetheless, most insurance companies stipulate that preventing further property damage is the homeowner’s responsibility, and a disaster recovery company can help you.
Let your insurance company and recovery specialist know about any existing photos or videos that you may have taken of your belongings before the disaster since this documentation may help with the accuracy of the claim and the restoration work.
The use of a disaster specialist isn’t limited to large-scale problems. Many companies also assist with situations such as broken pipes and fallen trees. Because of the variety of issues that can arise from such an event, disaster specialists can help with many kinds of damage. While much of the visible damage to the home occurs during the actual event, unseen and tangential damage can also occur. A trained specialist will know how and where to find these types of damage.
Often, disaster recovery companies will provide additional services that the homeowner may not even know are necessary, such as hazardous material removal. Environmental hazards, like exposed asbestos or leaked petroleum products, can occur if the home is damaged, and they will need to be inspected and handled by an expert. Some companies also offer restoration services that address the contents of the home, including artwork and electronics restoration, document drying, and furniture refinishing.
Damage from water, fire, or a natural disaster is every homeowner’s nightmare. Even seemingly minor damage can cause innumerable issues if it is not addressed promptly and correctly, so it is important to take the necessary steps to restore your home and belongings. Quick action after a disaster is the key to preventing further damage and returning your home—and your life—to normal.