Sometimes, the best way to prepare for the shock of an unexpected traumatic event is to prepare for it before the threat exists. In the case of a fire, it is imperative that you know what to do immediately after the event transpires, and to have a plan of action for getting your home or business rehabilitated back to its initial state.
Take Immediate Action
At the onset of a fire, the American Red Cross recommends you practice the following guidelines to ensure that you and others receive the care you need.
To begin, you’ll want to call 9-1-1 and involve the proper authorities that can help remediate the situation before moving forward with any other steps. Always remove yourself from fire and smoke and get yourself, and others, to a safe location.
Once help is on the way, you will want to care for any individuals or pets that may be in need of assistance. Be sure to cover burn wounds, to the extent that you can, to prevent infection or further injury.
Do not, under any circumstances, re-enter your home to retrieve first aid supplies. Anyone who is seriously injured must be transported to a hospital to receive professional medical care.
Lastly, never enter a home or building that has been impacted by a fire until you have been granted permission to do so by your local fire authority.
Upon Returning Home
Once you have been given permission to re-enter your building or residence, it is important that you do so carefully, and wisely.
Never re-enter a structure that has water around it, nor walk in puddles of water that have come in contact with electrical outlets.
If you notice any taped-off sections of a fire-affected structure, be diligent not to wander into those areas, as there is a reason they are prohibited.
Although the American Red Cross has guidelines that may enable you to handle some restorative processes for remediating a fire-ridden structure yourself, we don’t recommend it. Doing so can put you at extreme risk for injury, and may even make matters worse.
Instead, keep your eyes open for any major damage to your home or business that are clearly visible from the inside and outside, and avoid any areas that look unsafe.
Be aware of any strange noises, such as hissing sounds, or odd aromas, such as leaking gas. If you detect either or these, it is important that you leave the premises and call for help.
You may open doors and windows for ventilation, but if either of these structural components appear jammed, do not force them open. Doing so may cause the structure to collapse.
Be sure to avoid any frayed or exposed wiring, as well as slippery surfaces.
If the environment looks like it could be detrimental to your health and safety, trust your gut. Leave the structure and call for additional assistance.
Lastly, be aware of any food that may have been contaminated by fire or smoke before ingesting it. As a general rule of thumb, food items that have been stored in the freezer are edible if they have visible ice crystals on them. If not, the food items should be thrown away.
Any food that is housed in cardboard boxes, or has been opened, is no longer suitable for consumption.
Make the Call: Don’t Go It Alone
Making a call to a restorative team for the rehabilitation of a fire-affected building is always a wise decision.
Although you may think that you can handle the cleanup process, the truth is that restoration teams have access to cleaning equipment and supplies that can get the job done more completely and effectively than you could ever achieve on your own.
This isn’t a trivial matter. Neglecting to properly restore your home or establishment can have devastating secondary outcomes, from collapsed structures to electroshock, and even compromised health, down the road.
Rather than take on the task of rehabilitating a structure yourself, you should consider allowing a trained remediation expert to utilize his or her expertise to deodorize your home while also ridding it of sundry safety concerns.
Your technician will inspect the affected structure, devise a plan, and then take to cleaning and remediating the structure in a safe and effective way.
All in all, it is for your protection, and the protection of others, that you leave restoration efforts to the experts, even if you think you can handle the job on your own.
Take Care of Yourself
Remember, undergoing the distress of having witnessed a fire could leave you reeling for weeks, months, and maybe even years.
Give yourself time to recover and take care of yourself by drinking plenty of water, returning to daily routines and habits to the extent that you are able, staying in contact with friends and family and avoiding emotional “triggers” like news reportings of similar tragic events.
Always reach out for help concerning the remediation of a fire-affected building or structure, as it’s best not to go about the remedial process alone.