Fire. It’s a natural disaster that can happen for any reason. What steps need to be taken during and after a fire or other disaster hits your house or building? Even before the unexpected occurs, what should you do to prepare yourself?
The number one priority is safety. Buildings and possessions are replaceable, but people and pets are not. It is imperative that all smoke detectors and CO detectors are in working order and have fresh batteries. Change the batteries each time you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time. Make sure you have a charged-up fire extinguisher in your kitchen and know how to use it. You can find videos showing how to use them online. Make sure that your dryer vents are cleaned annually.
Should a fire start in your home, and you cannot extinguish it quickly, immediately get everyone out and call 911. If you are in a multi-family building, bang on your neighbors’ doors to alert or wake them. It is a great idea to go over an emergency escape plan with your family. Practice it a few times and have a meeting place at a safe distance from your building that everyone should go to.
Once the fire department extinguishes the fire, they will check to make sure that the fire is not continuing to spread through the walls and will let you know if or when it is safe to return to your home.
Here are the next important next steps for you to take:
- Call your insurance company. You should store your homeowner’s insurance company’s number in your phone. It would also be helpful to store your homeowner’s policy on your phone so that it is easy to find. If you cannot stay in your home and must go to a hotel, save all receipts as most homeowner policies will cover that cost as part of the claim.
- Contact your Del Val Property Manager if they have not already been notified of the fire. Your Del Val Property Manager will help to guide you through the process. If you live in a Homeowner’s Association, the master insurance policy may cover a portion of the damages. The master insurance Company and your homeowner’s insurance company will determine how the claim will be handled. Your property manager will provide all of the insurance adjusters with the associations documents so that they can fully determine who will be handling the claim or how it will be divided.
- If needed, a fire and water restoration company should be called in to start the cleanup and prevent further issues caused by the fire and by the water used to put the fire out. Your insurance and/or the master policy should cover the costs for this service.
One cautionary note: beware of contractors, insurance adjusters, or any other persons who approach or call you after your home has sustained a fire or other disaster unless you were the one who called them initially. Scammers and unscrupulous contractors listen to police and fire scanners as well as news reports and prey upon unsuspecting residents during what is a stressful and emotional time. Call your property manager or a board member to report this if it occurs.
In cases where your homeowner’s policy will be handling the entire claim, your insurance adjuster will issue a payment based on their assessment for getting all repairs and restoration completed to pre-fire conditions. You should contact licensed and insured contractors to complete the work. Require that they provide you with a valid and current certificate of insurance as well as a contract specifying the scope and costs of the work needed to be done. If they fail to provide you with proper insurance certification and a contract, do not hire them and find a contractor who will.
If it is deemed that your HOA’s master policy covers structural restoration and other items, your property manager will work closely with the insurance adjuster and will arrange and coordinate all the contractors needed while keeping you apprised of the status and timeline. The goal is to get your home back to where it was prior to the fire so that you and your family can get back to a sense of normalcy.
Del Val Property Management has the experience that you can rely on to guide you through what can be a very frightening, difficult, and emotional experience. Hopefully you will never need that kind of support, but rest assured that we will be there when it is most needed.