Recovering from a fire may take a long time and many of the things you
have to do will be new to you.
If you are not insured, your recovery from a fire loss most likely will
be dependent upon your own resources Private organizations that can help
include the American Red Cross (225) 291-4533 and the Salvation Army
(225) 355-4483. You also could talk with your church or synagogue. Local civic
groups such as the Lions or Rotary Clubs also can be of help.
If you are insured, your insurance will be the most important single
component in recovering from a fire loss. A number of
coverage's are available such as - homeowner's, tenant's or condominium
owner's insurance policies.
Your insurance policy is a contract between you and the insurer. The
insurer promises to do certain things for you. In turn, you
have certain obligations. Among your duties after a fire loss would be
to give immediate notice of the loss to the insurance
company or the insurer's agent.
Protect the property from further damage by making sensible or necessary
repairs such as covering holes in the roof or walls.
Take reasonable precautions against loss, such as draining water lines
in winter if the house will be unheated for some time. The
insurance company may refuse to pay losses that occur from not taking
such reasonable care.
Make an inventory of damaged personal property showing in detail the
quantity, description, original purchase price, purchase
date, damage estimate and replacement cost.
Cooperate with the insurer or his/her adjuster by exhibiting the damaged property.
Submit, within a stated time period (usually 30 - 60 days), a formal
statement of loss. Such a statement should include:
The time and cause of loss
The names and addresses of those who have an interest in the
property. These might include the mortgage holder, a
separated or divorced spouse or a lien holder.
Building plans and specifications of the original home and a
detailed estimate for repairs.
The damage inventory mentioned above.
Receipts for additional living expenses and loss of use claims.
Valuing Your Property
A pre-fire inventory along with a videotape of all your property could
prove to be a valuable record when making your claim.
When adjusting your fire loss or in claiming a casualty loss on your
Federal income tax, you will have to deal with various
viewpoints on the value of your property. Some terms used are listed below:
Your "personal valuation" is your attachment to and personal
valuation of your property lost in a fire. Personal items have
a certain sentimental value. This term is not meant to belittle
their value to you but is used to separate feelings about the
value from objective measures of value. It will be objective
measures of value which you, the insurer, and the Internal
Revenue Service will use as a common ground.
The "cost when purchased" is an important element in establishing
an item's final value. Receipts will help verify the cost
Fair market value before the fire also is expressed as "actual cash
value". This is what you could have gotten for the item
if you had sold it the day before the fire. Its price would reflect
its cost at purchase and the wear it had sustained since
then. Depreciation is the formal term to express the amount of
value an item loses over a period of time.
"Value after the fire" is sometimes called the item's "salvage value".
The cost to replace the item with a like, but not necessarily
identical, item is the replacement cost.
Adjusting the Loss
"Loss adjustment" is the process of establishing the value of the
damaged property. This is the result of a joint effort among a
number of parties. Basic parties to the process are the owner or
occupant and the insurance company and its representatives.
The owner or occupant is required by the insurance contract to prepare
an inventory and cooperate in the loss valuation
process. An insurance agent may act as the adjuster if the loss is
small. The insurer may send an adjuster who is a permanent
member of the insurer's staff, or the company may hire an independent
adjuster to act in its behalf. It is the insurance adjuster's
job, as a representative of the insurance company, to monitor and assist
in the loss valuation process and to bring the loss to a
just and equitable settlement.
Either you or the insurer may hire the services of a fire damage
restoration firm or fire damage service company. These firms
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
It is important to coordinate with the insurance adjuster before
contracting for any services. If you invade the insurer's
responsibility area by contracting without its knowledge or consent, you
may be left with bills to pay that otherwise would have
been covered by the insurer.
Replacement of Valuable Documents and Records
Who to Contact
Driver's license Local department of motor vehicles
Bank books Your bank, as soon as possible
Insurance policies Your insurance agent
Military discharge papers Local Veterans Administration
Passports Local passport offic
Birth, death, marriage certificates State Bureau of Records in the state of birth, death or marriage
Divorce papers Circuit Court where decree was issued
Social Security or Medicare cards Local Social Security Office
Credit Cards The issuing companies, as soon as possible
Titles to deeds Records department of city or county in which the property is located
Stocks and bonds Issuing company or your broker
Wills Your lawyer
Medical records Your doctor
Warranties Issuing company
Income tax records The Internal Revenue Service Center where filed or your accountant
Auto registration title Department of Motor Vehicles
Citizenship papers The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
Prepaid burial contracts Issuing company
Animal registration papers Society of registry
Clothing - Smoke odor and soot sometimes can be washed from
clothing. The following formula often will work for
clothing that can be bleached:
4-6 tbsp. of Tri-Sodium Phosphate
l cup Lysol or any household chlorine bleach
l gallon warm water
Mix well, add clothes, rinse with clear water and dry well.
Be aware that Tri-Sodium Phosphate is a caustic substance used as a
cleaning agent. It should be used with care and
stored out of reach of children and pets. Wear rubber gloves when
using it. Read the label carefully. To remove mildew,
wash the fresh stain with soap and warm water. Then rinse and dry
in 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-powdered cleaner. You can polish copper and brass with
special polish, salt sprinkled on a piece of lemon or salt
sprinkled on a cloth saturated with vinegar.
Electrical Appliances - Appliances that have been exposed to water
or steam should not be used until you have a
service representative check them. This is especially true of
electrical appliances. In addition, steam can remove the
lubricant from some moving parts. If the fire department turned off
your gas or power during the fire, call the electric or
gas company to restore these services - DO NOT TRY TO DO IT YOURSELF.
Food - Wash your canned goods in detergent and water. Do the same
for food in jars. If labels come off, be sure you
mark the contents on the can or jar with a grease pencil. Do not
use canned goods when cans have bulged or are dented or rusted.
If your home freezer has stopped running, you still can save the
frozen food. Keep the freezer closed. Your freezer has
enough insulation to keep food frozen for at least one day -
perhaps for as many as two or three days. Move your food
to a neighbor's freezer or a rented locker. Wrap the frozen food in
newspapers and blankets or use insulated boxes. Do
not re-freeze 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. Some
baking soda in an open container, or a piece of
charcoal can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to absorb odor.
Flooring and Rugs - When water gets underneath linoleum, it can
cause odors and warp the wood floor. If this
happens, remove the entire sheet. If the linoleum is brittle, a
heat lamp will soften it so it can be rolled up without
breaking. If carefully removed, it can be re-cemented after the
floor has completely dried. Small blisters in linoleum can
be punctured with a nail and re-cemented if you are careful. Dilute
regular linoleum paste thin enough to go through a
hand syringe and shoot adhesive through the nail hole. Weigh down
the linoleum with bricks or boards. It usually is
possible to cement loose tiles of any type. Wait until the floor is
completely dry before beginning.
Rugs and carpets also should be allowed to dry thoroughly. Throw
rugs then 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 rot a rug. For information on
cleaning and preserving carpets, call your carpet dealer or
installer or qualified carpet cleaning professional.
Mattresses and Pillows - Reconditioning an innerspring mattress at
home is very difficult, if not impossible. Your
mattress may be able to be renovated by a company that builds or
repairs mattresses. If you must use your mattress
temporarily, put it out into the sun to dry. Then cover it with
rubber or plastic sheeting. It is almost impossible to get
smoke odor out of pillows. The feathers and foam retain the odor.
Leather and Books - Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth, then a
dry cloth. Stuff purses and shoes with newspapers
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. You can use steel wool or a suede
brush on suede. Rinse leather and suede jackets in cold
weather and dry away from heat and sun.
Wet books must be taken care of as soon as possible. The best
methods 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 will be a delay in locating such a freezer, place them in
a normal freezer until a vacuum freezer can be located.
Locks and Hinges - Locks (especially iron locks) should be taken
apart, wiped with kerosene and oiled. If locks
cannot be removed, squirt machine oil through a bolt opening or
keyhole, and work the knob to distribute the oil. Hinges
also should be thoroughly cleaned and oiled.
Walls and Furniture - To remove soot and smoke from walls,
furniture and floors, mix together:
4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phosphate
1 cup Lysol or any chloride bleach
1 gallon warm water
Wear rubber gloves when cleaning. After washing the article, rinse
with clear warm water and dry thoroughly.
Walls may be washed down while wet. Use a mild soap or detergent.
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. Do not repaint until the walls
and ceilings are completely dry.
Wallpaper also can be repaired. Use a commercial paste to re-paste
loose edges or sections. Contact your wallpaper
dealer or installer for information on wallpaper cleaners. Washable
wallpaper can be washed like an ordinary wall, but
care must be taken not to soak the paper. Work from bottom to top
to prevent streaking.
Do not dry your furniture in the sun. The wood will warp and twist
out of shape. Clear off the mud and dirt by scrubbing
with a stiff brush and a cleaning solution. You can also rub the
wood surface with a 4/0 steel wool pad dipped in liquid
polishing wax, wipe with a soft cloth and then buff. Remove the
drawers and let them dry thoroughly so there will be no
sticking when you replace them. Wet wood can decay and mold, so
allow it to 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 in a mixture of borax dissolved in hot water. To
remove white spots or film, rub the wood surface with a
cloth soaked in a solution of a half cup of household ammonia and a
half cup of water. Wipe dry and polish with wax, or
rub the surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of a half cup
turpentine and a half cup of linseed oil. Be careful because
turpentine is combustible.
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 of the bill is intact), you can take the
remainder to your local Federal Reserve Bank for replacement. Ask
your personal bank for the nearest one. Or you can
mail the burned or torn money via FIRST CLASS REGISTERED MAIL to:
U.S. Treasury Department
Main Treasury Building, Room 1123
Washington, D.C. 20220
Mutilated or melted coins can be taken to the Federal Reserve Bank,
or mailed via FIRST CLASS REGISTERED MAIL to:
Superintendent, U.S. Assay Office
32 Old Slip
New York, NY 10005
If your U.S. Savings Bonds have been mutilated or destroyed, write to:
U.S. Treasury Department
Bureau of Public Debt
Division of Loans and Currency
537 South Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60605
Attn: Bond Consultant
Include name(s) on bonds, approximate date or time period when
purchased, denominations and approximate number of each.
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