WHAT TO DO AFTER A FIRE
One of the most traumatic events one can experience is a loss due to a fire. To make matters worse, what do you do next after a fire? One normally does not know. They are traumatized by the loss and are now sinking lower because they do not know what to do next, where to go, who to call, etc. Lego Township realizes that and set up a program to help its citizens begin the next step to rebuild after the fire department leaves the scene.
The program is short in duration and has a handout that one can read to get a better understanding of what to do. The Bureau has decided to post some of the program here.
First thing is to call your insurance company as soon as possible (and your landlord if you rent)! Take pictures of all the damage.
If the fire was small in nature and you may inhabit the building again, then do the following:
- If any food, beverages, or medications came in contact with smoke, throw it out.
- Wash canned goods in soapy water. Be sure to write what was in the can should something happen to the label.
- If power was shut off, keep the refrigerator and freezer closed. It will keep food cold for a short period of time.
- If you have a safe, wait for it to cool before opening. The contents of hot gases may combust when you open the door.
- If utilities were damaged, the utility company will make repairs only from the meters to the outside. All interior work will need a private contractor (Don't forget the building permits)!
If the fire was bad enough that you have to leave, then:
- Call your insurance company as soon as possible (and your landlord if you rent)! Take pictures of all the damage.
- Be sure to take with you all important info, medications, eyeglasses, hearing aids, etc, and any valuables (money, insurance policies, jewelry, checkbooks, credit/debit cards).
- Notify the post office with your new mailing address, as well as your banks, utilities, insurance, subscriptions, Social Security, and the Fire Department (if the fire is under investigation).
- Most of all, keep a list of what you take with you.
You may then be contacted by an insurance adjustor. He is the middleman between you, the insurance company, and repair contractors. They charge a fee for their services.
You may lose some records and documents in the fire. Some of the items you may need are your driver's license, insurance policies, social security card, credit cards, titles or deeds, wills, stocks and bonds, birth and death certificates, marriage license divorce papers, medical records, income tax returns, etc. To prevent these items from getting destroyed, you should store them in a fire resistant safe or a safe deposit box.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why do firefighters cut holes in my roof and break my windows?
Normally, fire burns up and then out. Firefighters "open the roof" and "take out windows" to vent the building of smoke and gases. It stops the outward movement of the fire and allows firefighters to fight the fire more efficiently and safely. Believe it or not, it actually minimized the loss. Speaking from experience, if you can't see where you are going, it will delay you from getting to the fire. Venting allows firefighters to remove smoke and heat. This makes it more tenable and easier for us to locate and fight the fire.
Why are there holes in my walls? They weren't there before the fire.
We make holes in the wall because we want to be sure that fire has not extended behind walls and in hidden spaces. Firefighters will typically do as little damage as possible to "check for extension." It is something that has to be done. Otherwise, we will be back in a few hours fighting the fire again.
What if I need a copy of the fire report? Can I get one?
Yes! It is a public document and is available at the Bureau of Fire Investigation and Prevention. You will need to call to verify that the report is ready.
How do I report a fire?
There are many ways to report a fire:
- If you do not have access to a phone, in Lego Twp you can go to a nearby fire box (click the link to see a list of fire boxes in town). Open the white handle, pull down the hook, and wait at the box for the fire department to direct them.
- If you do have a phone, dial 9-1-1. State the emergency and where the emergency is. Include the address and the number that you are calling from. Most importantly, REMAIN CALM! Answer any questions that the 9-1-1 operator asks. Remember, one cannot help you if you are too excited. Speak clearly and don't shout over the phone. Also remember, the 9-1-1 operator will hang up after you do.
- Walk in to any firehouse or fire headquarters.
Do's and Dont's
DO NOT REPORT A FIRE IN A BUILDING WHILE YOU ARE IN IT! GET OUT FIRST THEN GO TO A PHONE AND CALL.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FIGHT A FIRE YOURSELF. CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT FIRST THEN FIGHT THE FIRE! It is always best to call the Fire Department before fighting fire yourself. It gets us to you much faster and typically, less loss will occur.
DO PRACTICE FIRE DRILLS! Have a drill as often as possible. Designate two spots outside to meet. Have a primary meeting spot, and a secondary meeting spot should you not have access to the primary spot for some reason.
DO NOT CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT UNNECESSARILY!! Basically do not report a false alarm. Intent is the key here. If the intent was a practical joke, then that is unnecessary and the fire department should not be called. You may end up hurting someone seriously if the fire department gets delayed because of a false alarm. If you think you see smoke or fire, call the fire department. If it turns out to be nothing, that's ok. You had good intentions, and you will not be in trouble.
DO LEARN how to use a fire extinguisher, and the different types of extinguishers.
DO INSTALL AND TEST SMOKE DETECTORS AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS.
For more information, please stop by or call the Bureau of Fire Investigation and Prevention.
Information on what to do after a loss from fire was taken from "After the Fire...A Time of Decision," a booklet from the Rutherford Bureau of Fire Safety. Special thanks to the Rutherford Bureau of Fire Safety, who supplied the booklet, St. Petersburg Kiwanis Club and St. Petersburg, FL Fire Department who had the original idea and booklet. The Rutherford Rotary Club, Justin Insurance Agency, and the Rutherford Fire Department Fund Drive Committee who sponsored and supported the booklet for the Rutherford Bureau of Fire Safety.