AFTER THE FIRE....
RETURNING TO NORMAL!
FIRE SAFETY EDUCATION PAGE
Recovering from a fire can be a physically and mentally draining process. When fire strikes, lives are suddenly turned around. Often the hardest part is knowing where to begin and who to contact. The Fort Lee Fire Department has gathered the following information to assist you in this time of need. Action on some of the suggestions will need to be taken immediately. Some actions may be needed in the future while others will be on going. The purpose of this information is to give you the assistance needed to assist you as you begin rebuilding your life. Print this page for future reference.
SECURING YOURSELF AND YOUR HOME
Before the fire department leaves the scene of a fire, they may have determined that it is unsafe for you to re-occupy your home. If this happens, they will ask you if you need temporary housing. If it is needed, this will be arranged through the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army. These organizations can also assist you with:
Other essential items
Do not re-enter the damaged structure after the fire department has left the scene. Fires can rekindle from hidden smoldering remains.
Normally, the fire department will see that the utilities - water, electricity and natural gas - are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the scene. Do not attempt to turn on any of the utilities.
Be watchful for structural damage caused by the fire. Roofs and floors may be damaged and subject to collapse.
Food, beverages and medicine exposed to heat, smoke, soot and water should not be consumed.
LEAVING YOUR HOME
The fire department will advise the police department that the structure will be unoccupied.
In some cases it may be necessary to board up openings to discourage trespassers or to protect undamaged areas from the weather. The fire department can board up some areas, but it may be necessary to have an independent contractor come in to completely board up the structure.
Beginning immediately, save receipts for any money you spend. These receipts are important in showing the insurance company what money you have spent related to your fire loss and also for verifying losses claimed on your income tax.
Prior to leaving you may ask the fire department in assisting you with locating:
Identification, such as driver's license and Social Security cards
Eyeglasses, hearing aids or other prosthetic devices
Valuables, such as credit cards, bank books, cash and jewelry
There are many other people/entities that should be notified of your relocation, including:
Your insurance agent
Your mortgage company
Your family and friends
Your child's school
Your post office
Any delivery services
Your utility companies
Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made. All damages are taken into consideration in developing your insurance claim. If you are considering contracting for inventory or repair services discuss your plans with your insurance agent.
IF YOU ARE INSURED
Give notice of the loss to your insurance agent/company as soon as possible.
Ask you insurance agent/company what to do about the immediate needs of the structure, such as covering doors, windows and other exposed areas and pumping out water.
As your insurance agent/company what actions are required of you. Some policyholders may be required to make an inventory of damaged personal property showing in detail the quantity, description and how much you paid for them.
IF YOU ARE NOT INSURED
Your recovery from a fire loss may be based upon your own resources and help from the community.
Private organizations that may be sources of aid or information:
American red cross
Department of Social Services
State and municipal emergency services office
Non-profit crisis counseling centers
VALUING YOUR PROPERTY
You will encounter different viewpoints on the value of your property in adjusting your fire loss or in claiming a casualty loss on your federal income tax. Knowing the following terms will help you understand the process used to determine the value of your fire loss:
YOUR PERSONAL VALUATION: Your personal loss of goods through fire may be difficult to measure. These personal items have sentimental value to you; however, it is objective measures of value that you, the insurer and the Internal Revenue Service will use as a common ground for discussion. Some of the objective measures are discussed below.
COST WHEN PURCHASED: This is an important element in establishing an item's final value Receipts will help verify the cost price.
FAIR MARKET VALUE BEFORE THE FIRE: This concept is also expressed as actual cash value. This is what you could have received for the item if you had sold it the day before the fire. The price would reflect its cost at purchase minus the wear it sustained since purchase. Depreciation is the formal term used to express the amount of value an item loses over a period of time.
VALUE AFTER THE FIRE: This is sometimes called the item's salvage value.
There are companies that specialize in the restoration of fire damaged structures. Whether you or your insurer employs this type of service, be clear of who will pay. Be sure to request an estimate of cost for the work. Before any company is hired check their references. These companies provide a range of services that may include some or all of the following:
securing the site against further damage
estimating structural damage
repairing structural damage
estimating the cost to repair or renew items of personal property
packing, transportation and storage of household items
securing appropriate cleaning or repair subcontractors
storing repaired items until needed
REPLACEMENT OF VALUABLE DOCUMENTS & RECORDS
Here's a check list of documents you will need to replace if they have been destroyed and who to contact for information on the replacement process.
ITEM WHO TO CONTACT
Driver's license, auto registration Department of Motor Vehicles
Bank books (checking, savings, etc.) Your bank (as soon as possible)
Insurance policies Your insurance agent
Military discharge papers Department of Veterans Affairs
Passports Passport service
Birth, death & marriage certificates State Bureau of Records
Divorce papers Circuit court where decree was issued
Social Security or Medicare cards Local Social Security office
Credit cards The issuing company (as soon as possible)
Titles to deeds Municipality where property is located
Stocks & bonds Issuing company or your broker
Wills Your attorney
Medical records Your doctor
Warranties Issuing company
Income tax records The IRS Center or your accountant
Citizenship papers U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service
Prepaid burial contract Issuing company
Animal registration papers Humane Society
Mortgage papers Lending institute
Professional fire and water damage restoration businesses may be the best source of cleaning and restoring your personal belongings. Companies offering this service can be located in the phone directory.
CLOTHING: A word of caution before you begin - test garments before using any treatment and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Several of the cleaning mixtures described in this section contain the substance Tri-Sodium Phosphate. This substance can be purchased under the generic name TSP. Tri-Sodium Phosphate is a caustic substance used commonly as a cleaning agent. It should be used wuth care and stored out of reach of children and pets. Wear rubber gloves when using it if you have sensitive skin. Read the label for information.
Smoke odor and soot can sometimes be washed from clothing. The following formula may work for clothing that can be bleached:
> 4 to 6 tablespoons of Tri-Sodium Phosphate
> 1 cup of household cleaner or chlorine bleach
> 1 gallon of warm water
Mix well, add clothes, rinse with clear water and dry thoroughly.
An effective way to remove mildew from clothing is to wash the fresh stain with soap and water, rinse and then dry in the sun. If the stain has not disappeared, use lemon juice and salt or a diluted solution of household chlorine bleach.
COOKING UTENSILS: Your pots, pans, flatware, etc. should be washed with soapy water, rinsed and then polished with a fine powered cleaner. You can polish copper and brass with a special polish, salt sprinkled on a piece of lemon or salt sprinkled on a cloth saturated with vinegar.
ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES: Don't use appliances that have been exposed to water or steam until you a service representative check them. This is especially true of electrical appliances. In addition, steam can remove the lubricant from some moving parts.
FOOD: Wash your canned goods in detergent and water. Do the same for food in jars. If labels come off, be sure to mark the contents on the can or jar with a grease pencil. Do not use canned goods when the cans have bulged or rusted. Do not refreeze frozen food that has thawed.
To remove odor from your refrigerator or freezer, wash the inside with a solution of baking soda and water, or use one cup of vinegar or household ammonia to one gallon of water. Baking soda in an open container or a piece of charcoal can also be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to absorb odor.
RUGS AND CARPETS: Rugs and carpets should be allowed to dry thoroughly. Throw rugs can be cleaned by beating, sweeping or vacuuming and then shampooing. Rugs should be dried as quickly as possible - lay them flat and expose them to a circulation of warm, dry air. A fan turned on the rugs will speed drying. Make sure the rugs are thoroughly dry. Even though the surface seems dry, moisture remaining at the base of the tufts can quickly cause the rug to rot. For information on cleaning and preserving carpets, call your carpet dealer or installer or a qualified carpet cleaning professional.
LEATHER AND BOOKS: Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth, then a dry cloth. Stuff purses and shoes with newspaper to retain shape. Leave suitcases open. Leather goods should be dried away from heat and sun. When leather goods are dry, clean with saddle soap. Rinse leather and sued jackets in cold water and dry away from heat and sun.
Wet boks must be taken care of as soon as possible. The best method to save wet books is to freeze them in a vacuum freezer. This special freezer will remove the moisture without damaging the pages. If there is a delay in locating such a freezer, then place them in a normal freezer until a vacuum freezer can be located. The local librarian is a good resource.
LOCKS AND HINGES: Locks (especially iron locks) should be taken apart and wiped with oil. If locks cannot be removed, squirt machine oil through a bolt opening or keyhole and work the knob to distribute the oil. Hinges should also be thoroughly cleaned and oiled.
WALLS, FLOORS AND FURNITURE: To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, use a mild soap or detergent or mix together the following solution:
> 4 to 6 tablespoons of Tri-Sodium Phosphate
> 1 cup of household cleaner or chlorine bleach
> 1 gallon of warm water
Wear rubber gloves when cleaning with this solution. Be sure to rinse your walls, floors and furniture with clear warm water and dry thoroughly after washing them with this solution. Wash a small area at one time, working from the floor up. Then rinse the wall with clear water immediately. Ceilings should be washed last.
Your wallpaper can also be repaired. Use a commercial paste to repaste a loose edge or section. Contact your wallpaper dealer or installer for information on wallpaper cleaners. Washable wallpaper can be cleaned like an ordinary wall, but care must be taken not to soak the paper. Work from the bottom to top to prevent streaking.
WOOD FURNITURE: Do not dry your furniture in the sun. The wood will warp and twist out of shape. Clear off mud and dirt. Remove drawers and let them dry thoroughly so there will be no sticking when you replace them. Scrub wood furniture or fixtures with a stiff brush and a cleaning solution. Wet wood can decay and mold, so dry thoroughly. Open doors and windows for good ventilation. Turn on your furnace or air conditioner, if necessary. If mold forms, wipe the wood with a cloth soaked ina mixyure of boraz dissolved in hot water. To remove white spots or fil, rub the wood surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of 1/2 cup of household ammonia and 1/2 cup of water. Then wipe the surface dry and polish with was or rub surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of 1/2 cup of turpentine and 1/2 cup of linseed oil. Be -careful - turpentine is combustible! You can also rub the wood surface with a fine grade steel wool pad dripped in liquid polishing wax, clean the area with a soft cloth and then buff.
MONEY REPLACEMENT: Handle burned money as little as possible. Attempt to encase each bill or portion of a bill in plastic wrap for preservation. If money is only half burned or less (if half or more is intact), you can take the remainder to your regional Federal Reserve Bank for replacement. Ask your bank for the nearest one. Or you can mail the burned or torn money by "registered mail, return receipt requested" to:
Department of the Treasury / Bureau of Engraving and Printing / P.O. Box 37048 / Washington, DC 20013
Mutilated or melted coins can be taken to your regional Federal Reserve Bank or mailed by "registered mail, return receipt requested" to:
Superintendent / U.S. Mint / P.O. Box 400 / Philadelphia, PA 19105
If your U.S. Savings Bonds have been destroyed or mutilated, you must obtain Department of Treasury Form PD F 1048 (I) from your bank or www.ustreas.gov or mail to:
Dept. of the Treasury / Bureau of Debt / Savings Bond Operations / P.O. Box 1328 Parkersburg, WV 26106
TAX INFORMATION: Check with an accountant, tax consultant or the Internal Revenue Service about special benefits for people with limited financial needs after a fire loss.