If you have found yourself in the unfortunate position of being a victim of an arson attack, your very first thoughts will most likely not be regarding the cleaning up and restoration of the property in question. The emotional, and sometimes physical impact that an arson attack can have on victims is devastating, and understandably takes precedence.
In this blog post, we aim to provide guidance and tips as well as links to useful resources that can assist you and anyone else with recovering from an arson attack. Because we specialise in damage restoration and hygiene, our focus will be more on the physical damage to a property and the restoration process. But we will cover the emotional and mental recovery of experiencing an arson attack first.
The emotional road to recovering from an arson attack
If you’re a victim of arson, it’s highly likely that you will be experiencing a plethora of emotions. These emotions will be different, depending on the severity of the attack and the physical impact to either yourself, family, friends, pets, property etc. The emotions you may experience could include:
Anger – you may feel angry at what’s happened and will most certainly being trying to understand who or why this has happened to you.
Fear – you may feel frightened for yourself and loved ones and worrying about the potential for this to happen again.
Guilt – you may begin to feel guilty if loved ones have come to harm and you have not. You may even experience regrets for things not done that could have prevented the arson attack happening in the first place.
Helplessness and Longing – you may feel completely helpless, victims often do in a moment of crisis. And if you have lost irreplaceable items such as photos or sentimental gifts, it’s very common to feel a sense of longing.
These emotions are completely natural for people to experience after a fire. In fact, your road to recovering emotionally begins with experiencing emotions such as these so it’s important not to try to suppress them. Below are some charities that can support you or loved ones on the road to recovery.
Victim Support is a UK based charity that supports victims of traumatic events and crime. Their services are free and confidential and you can reach out to their team in a number of ways including telephone and live chat.
The British Red Cross provide help and support to anyone affected by traumatic events. They don’t just provide telephone support for victims, they can also provide equipment, space and resources to support and help people to recover.
Is it the responsibility of the emergency services to cleanup after an arson attack?
The answer to this question is no. If you’re the owner of your property, be it residential or commercial, inevitably it will be your responsibility to address the cleanup process.
However, it’s important to note that the cleanup or damage restoration process of the property in question, cannot commence until the police have issued a crime reference number, and provided assurances that you are able to begin work.
Arson is a very serious crime and unfortunately, on occasions, we are subjected to unfortunate events in the news where people have lost their lives as a direct impact of attacks. The police categorise arson as the act of deliberately setting fire to property, which includes buildings and vehicles (see here).
Summary of the fire investigation process
In the UK, a fire investigation occurs for every fire related incident that has taken place. The investigation process commences only once the fire has been completely extinguished and the property is made safe for investigators to enter.
The aim of a fire investigation is to establish where the fire originated from, and subsequently try to establish what caused the fire.
The preservation of the scene of the fire is crucial. This is so that vital evidence can be collected and analysed as part of the investigation. The team investigating will have detailed knowledge of the chemistry and behaviour of fire effects. The Forensics Library has an excellent article on Fire Investigation if you wish to explore the process in more detail.
There are many reasons behind arson attacks which include insurance fraud, terrorism and mental health problems. If an investigation team cannot find evidence that links the fire to a suggested accident or as a result from natural causes, this is usually a strong indication that arson has taken place.
The cleanup process after an arson attack
It’s recommended that you make contact as soon as possible with your building and contents insurance provider, to make them aware of the incident. However, you can speak to a member of our team, free of charge, if there’s anything you are unsure about or require additional advice. Call us on 01622 926 505
Your insurance company will schedule an appointment for a structural engineer to carry out an assessment of the structural integrity of the building to ensure it is safe for people to enter.
If deemed safe, a loss adjuster is then appointed by the insurance company to conduct a survey and further assess the damage caused by the fire. However, it’s important to note, that the claimant has the right to appoint their own, independent loss adjuster, that works solely for the claimant, to carry out the survey.
Now that there is a greater understanding of the damage caused and what is required to restore the property, the process of requesting quotes for the cleanup and restoration work can commence.
Your insurance company can recommend a cleaning company to carry out the works BUT again, similarly with the loss adjuster, it is your right and prerogative to choose a cleaning company, independently from your insurance company’s recommendation.Prior to cleanup and restoration work commencing
The fire investigation team provides signed documentation, instructing the principal holder of the property that they have completed their investigation. This document needs to be shared with the company that is carrying out the fire damage cleaning and restoration process.
If the building was built prior to the year 2,000, then a Refurbishment/Demolition Survey will also need to be conducted to identify any asbestos that could be in the building.
At Ideal Response, we carry out our own risk assessment of the planned cleanup location. This is to ensure the safety of our technicians and any other operatives entering and exiting the building.Commencing with the cleanup
Preparation to make the site secure has been completed, the relevant documentation has been signed and a schedule of work has been established. The cleanup process can now commence.
Each job is different depending on the size, location and severity of damage to the affected area. But here are some key components that should be considered during the cleanup process:
- Mitigate any further damage caused by soot and smoke to the property, the cleaning process should commence ASAP.
- Conduct relevant before and after tests. These includes pH testing which actually informs the cleaning chemicals that can be used in order to ensure no further damage can be caused to the property and it’s items.
- Take into consideration the indirect damage from firefighters trying to extinguish the fire, can also result in further damage to your property e.g. water damage and even mould. A specialist cleaning company such as Ideal Response, will take this into consideration during the cleanup process.
- Removing smoke odours – one of the options given to customers here at Ideal Response is an industry leading solution called BioSweep®. Click here to learn more about how we use BioSweep® to remove odours that have resulted from a fire.
If you have been the victim of an arson attack or have experienced a fire at your property, we hope this article has provided you with some valuable information and support.
Get in touch with a member of our team today and we’ll provide you with a free, no obligation quote.