Dealing with a fire is difficult and the aftermath of a disaster of this scale can cause unbearable trauma and uncertainty. Rebuilding your church after fire damage is a huge project, but it’s easier to take on when you know what to do and what to expect. The precautions you take immediately after you’ve suffered a fire loss can help the fire damage restoration process move a lot smoother. With this in mind, here are a few fire damage tips you can apply in the event of a fire at your house of worship.
1. Safety First
Keep off the afflicted areas of the building until the fire department has given you the all-clear to reenter the premises. This is an important step because, even if the flames may have been put out, there are other fire hazards to look out for. Slip and fall accidents, smoke inhalation, and cuts and bruises from the damaged property are just some of the ways that you could hurt yourself. To avoid further accidents, follow the firefighters’ instructions and keep off the property until otherwise advised.
2. File an Insurance Claim
As you prepare to rebuild your church after a fire, first contact your insurance company to begin the claims process. If you can, make a list of all the damaged items, and separate these items from the intact ones. In most cases, your insurance company will send a claims adjuster to visit your church and assess the extent of the fire damage.
Among other things, the adjuster will take pictures of the damage and file an insurance claim with your insurance company. After the insurer approves your claim, you can begin the cleanup and restoration process. Don’t forget to keep a record of receipts and other relevant documents that detail any expenses you may have incurred in replacing your church supplies.
3. Save Undamaged Belongings
As you continue to go through the property, you’re likely to find salvable items in the remains. This is highly likely if you kept special items like holy cards, communion ware, vestments, and other accessories in a fire-resistant room. Any church items that haven’t been ravaged by the fire should be put in storage, where possible. Before you have these items moved to a storage unit, have them cleaned to prevent transferring smoke odor and soot.
Additionally, if your church has lost a significant amount of items in the fire, or you foresee some struggle in restocking some of these items, ask your local church supply store if they’d be willing to make any charitable donations. You should also look for a vendor who sells church supplies, like rugs and prayer books, for the best prices and keep receipts for any crucifixes, rosaries, or processional crosses so that you can use them during the claim process.
4. Prepare to Rebuild
As you assess the extent of the fire damage, have your electrical system inspected by a licensed electrician. This is because a property that’s been harmed by fire often requires new wiring, and your breaker box sockets and other electric fixtures need to be replaced. The cleanup involved after a fire needs to account for the specific harm caused by smoke and fire. Working with a fire damage restoration contractor can help you get rid of mold growth, contaminated vents and air filters, smoke residue, smoke odor, and other debris that could be a health hazard.
Most church fires are caused by arson, portable appliances, and poor electrical installations. To manage future fire risks, test your smoke detectors regularly, practice extra caution with church candles, have an adequate supply of fire extinguishers, and ensure space heaters are directed away from flammable materials. Have an electrician you trust regularly inspect your chords and wires to ensure that they’re not frayed, as this could also be a potential fire risk. Lastly, ensure that your congregants and church staff are adequately trained in safety protocols.
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