A fire is a traumatising event, no matter how big the incident is. So when it comes to restoring your property, it’s vital that you understand how to select a fire restoration provider and also what to expect in the restoration process.

The ultimate goal of fire damage restoration is to restore a property and its contents to as close to pre-incident condition as possible, leaving a clean and safe environment. If fire damage cleaning isn’t done correctly, not only can the odour linger, but further damage can happen to both your contents and building. Insufficient cleaning of smoke and soot can also continue to put your health at risk once you move back into the property.

Below, we go into detail about the different aspects of fire damage restoration, from the role of your insurance to what’s actually involved in fire damage cleaning services, right through to how to choose a provider and the importance of accreditations.

The Role of Insurance in the Fire Damage Cleanup Process

It’s imperative that you make yourself familiar with what your insurance does and does not cover and the policies regarding making a claim before the worse actually happens. Be sure to set time aside to go through your cover so that if you do ever experience a fire, you know exactly what to expect from your insurance company and what they expect of you to help your claim along.

What to expect from a loss adjuster

Once a claim reaches a certain size, an insurance company will appoint a loss adjuster. The loss adjuster will investigate the claim to ensure that it is valid and that the sum being paid out is correct, in line with your policy.

If your claim does require a loss adjuster, they will usually be the first contact you receive from the insurer once your claim is logged. They’ll usually arrange to visit the affected property within a few days of the claim being made.

A loss adjuster will visit the affected property to obtain all necessary facts for ensuring that your claim is valid, and to ensure that the correct sum is paid out should the claim be successful. A report is usually compiled by the loss adjuster which is then presented to the insurance company.

During their visit, the loss adjuster will be checking for:

  • That there’s adequate cover in place to cover the damage/loss
  • All conditions in the insurance policy have been met
  • That the loss and/or damage to the property falls within the terms of the policy
  • That the amount being claimed for is reasonable
  • That only valid items are included within the claim

During the visit from the loss adjuster, you can also expect advice regarding the safety and security of your property to mitigate further loss, as well as advice on any necessary repair work to the property.

You’re not alone

The inclusion of a loss adjuster in your claim can feel daunting, especially when you’re already in a stressful situation and are feeling overwhelmed by the small print in your insurance documents. But you’re not alone.

While loss adjusters work for the insurance companies, you are completely entitled to appoint a loss assessor to work on your behalf. A loss assessor manages all aspects of your insurance claim from start to finish, so you do not have to get bogged down in jargon and can concentrate on what really matters.

Finding the Right Fire Damage Restoration Provider

Finding the right fire restoration provider for your needs isn’t an easy feat. Ensure you do your due diligence when researching different providers to mitigate the risk of insufficient or inadequate cleaning which can lead to further or irreparable damage.

When searching for a restoration provider, you’re ultimately looking for somebody who can restore your property and contents to as close to pre-incident condition as possible, leaving the building in a clean and safe environment.

But fire restoration isn’t an easy process. If left too late, secondary damage can occur. Soot and ash are extremely corrosive and will continue to corrode surfaces they’ve settled on. If water damage occurred as a result of firefighting efforts, then mould can start to colonise in as little as 24-48 hours. So it is absolutely vital that your chosen provider operates 24/7, 365 days of the year and offers a rapid response to help mitigate further damage and make the area safe.

Put simply, the longer fire damage restoration is left to begin, the more damage can be done. This ultimately results in more complex cleaning and therefore, cost and disruption, leaving you in alternative accommodation longer.

When looking for a fire restoration provider, don’t go by price alone. Ensure that the provider has proven experience in fire restoration itself – fire restoration is not the same as general building work. It requires specialist knowledge, specialist equipment, and specialist PPE (personal protective equipment).

Accreditations can help when finding a provider. The BDMA (British Damage Management Association) is the leading certifying body for damage management professionals, setting standards and providing training and accreditation for all those in the industry.

Choosing a provider who is BDMA accredited, or has technicians who are BDMA accredited, gives you the peace of mind that work will be completed to industry standard and a set code of practice is followed. The code of practice includes undertaking work with due regard to the appropriate health and safety legislation, as well as being committed to industry regulation.

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The Fire Damage Restoration Process

Your insurers have approved the claim and you have found a fire restoration provider you’re happy with. But what’s next? What’s actually involved in returning your property back to normal?

When contacting a restoration company, you may be asked a series of questions which could include questions like the following:

  • Where did the fire start?
  • What was the cause of the fire?
  • What areas of the property are affected?
  • What surfaces have been affected?
  • What contents requires cleaning?
  • What power is available at the property? (for example are water and electricity still available or have they been shut off?)

These questions allow the provider to generate an idea of what’s happened and what the extent of the damage may be. You may also be asked to provide pictures of the affected areas.

The restoration provider will arrange a date to attend the property. When they arrive, they will carry out initial enabling work which aims to make the area safe for work to begin.

It isn’t unusual for a fire restoration provider to have processes to avoid cross-contamination. This can include the erection of “clean rooms” outside of the property and an initial saturation spraying or ULV (Ultra-Low Volume) fogging using a coagulant. This procedure effectively increases the mass of airborne particulates, forcing them to the floor which in turn, allows for their safe removal.

HEPA air scrubber or negative air pressure units should be installed to remove soot particles from the air. Due to their particularly small size, soot particles are easily inhaled into the lungs, causing respiratory issues. All surfaces should then be HEPA vacuumed to completely remove surface soot, then washed down with the appropriate chemicals to remove any remaining soot and smoke. To determine the best methods of cleaning, pH and chloride testing are carried out.

Once surfaces have been cleaned, they are then rinsed using potable water and if necessary, the process is repeated. At the end of the clean, a deodourising procedure should be completed to eliminate any lingering odours. It’s important to note that at times, it may be necessary for plaster or plasterboard to be cut away due to lingering odours or irreparable damage, such as thermal damage and charring.

Following this process, your property will be left in a state that is ready for redecoration and free from odour and soot particles.

During the restoration process, providers should also complete an inventory of all contents that is to be restored and any that are beyond economical repair (BER). Check with your provider whether they offer disposal of items classified as BER and remember, they should be registered as waste carriers if they are transporting waste.

If your property has suffered water damage, your fire restoration company should also make provisions to deal with the damage. This can include the extraction of standing water (either from firefighting efforts, sprinkler systems, or even burst pipes caused by the fire itself), drying the property, and treating the affected areas for mould colonisation.

At the end of a fire restoration process, you should be left with a property that is safe to inhabit, free from smoke, soot, and odour, and ready for reinstatement work to begin.

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