Advice On What To Do After Fire Damage

This information pack is provided for your use. The information is to assist you to manage the immediate effects of the fire.

This information is provided as a guide only.

Property Protection

If you have to leave your property:

Follow the directions of the Emergency Services. If they confirm the property is safe, clear and accessible to enter, remove all your valuables and documents where possible.

Request the police keep a special eye on the premises and give them a contact point. Ask your neighbours to do the same.

If you own the property, arrange for broken doors and windows to be boarded up. If you rent the property, ask the owner to do so.

If the heating is off and it is very cold it is possible that your pipes may burst and this post disaster damage may not be covered by your insurance. Consider having the water system shut off and drained to prevent further damage.

Information For Your Insurer

If you are insured, provide your insurance agent or company with a complete list of losses. If possible, include dates of purchases and costs.

Consider taking photographs of any badly damaged or destroyed items that may need to be removed or disposed of before a loss adjuster arrives, which could take up to five days.

Cleaning Up

To reduce the damage there are a number of actions you can take. However if you are insured, seek the approval of the insurance company before committing yourself to expenditure. The Yellow Pages will provide a complete list of organisations that can help you.

After the fire has been extinguished, the fire officers will thoroughly examine the building, and will advise you of any apparent structural or other defects. If the building is considered unsafe by the emergency services, they will inform the local building control officer.

Insurance Matters

  • As soon as possible get in touch with your insurance company or broker to advise them of the incident. They may want to appoint a Loss Adjuster to visit the property to survey and assess damage. Please be aware that you have the right to appoint an independent loss adjuster, such as Public Loss Adjusters, who will be working solely for you fighting your corner.
  • If emergency repairs need to be carried out immediately to make your property water­ proof and secure, make sure you retain receipts for the work carried out, as these may form part of your claim.
  • Make a list of all the property, contents or goods damaged

Public Loss adjusters are independent claims management specialists who investigate claims on behalf of the policyholder to help restore their property to full working order. They investigate at the scene of an incident to establish the causes of the ‘loss’. They then write reports for the insurer, recommending appropriate payment to cover your full entitlement.

If You Live On A Low Income And Have No Home Insurance

People on a low income may not have adequate insurance. Many households also let their policy lapse if they are facing financial problems.

The ‘crisis loan’ or ‘community grant’ is no longer available in England, Wales and Scotland however there are some other options that you could consider:

The Essential Living Fund can provide assistance for groceries, furniture, white goods, clothing and other living expenses, please visit for more details. Please note, while this is run by Southend Borough Council, it is available to people across Essex.

You may be eligible for a Budgeting Loan if you have been receiving benefits for 26 weeks or more. Please visit the job centre for further information.

If you have children or other vulnerable people in your family, you can get assistance from social services. Contact your local social security office for short-term financial assistance.

Otherwise contact your local council for further advice on what assistance is available to you in your area. To find out who to contact go to this site:

Protecting Your Property

When the emergency services leave, you are responsible for the security of your property. Your insurers will expect you to make sure your home is secure. Remove all valuables from the property if it is safe to do so, and close all doors and windows.

If windows or doors have been broken, they will require securing. If you are a council tenant, contact the relevant council or Housing Authority. If you are a homeowner you will need to contact your insurer, who will advise you. Contact your local police station to make them aware that your property will be empty.

Police – Non Emergency 101

Safety Of Appliances

Your water, gas or electricity installation or meter appliances may have been affected by fire, or may have been disconnected by the Fire and Rescue Service for safety reasons. If this is the case, do not attempt to turn them back on until they have been thoroughly checked by qualified engineers.

Check to ensure that any gas supplier or installer is on the Gas Safe Register (previously the CORGI register) and that a check of the installation and any problems are rectified BEFORE any attempt is made to restore the supply.

Contact your supplier of gas, electricity, water, sewerage and telephone/cable, to advise them of any change of address and the supply situation.

Temporary lighting or heating units can be dangerous. Make sure that they are inspected by the manufacturer or a qualified dealer before use. Make sure there is adequate ventilation in the room where these temporary appliances are being used and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Freezer Frozen Foods

If your home freezer has stopped running, take these steps to stop food from spoiling:

Keep the door closed and food may remain frozen for up to 24 hours. If you are removing/moving food, wrap food thickly in newspaper or use insulated cool boxes. To remove spoilage odours from a fridge or freezer, wash with baking soda and water or one cup of vinegar to each gallon of water.

Thawed Foods

Fruit, vegetables, meat fish or poultry exposed to intense heat and/or open flames MUST BE THROWN AWAY.

Canned Goods

Do not use canned goods that have been exposed to intense heat or open flames, during a fire the contents can be heated to the point where harmful bacteria can develop.

Cooking Utensils

Wash thoroughly with soapy water and scouring powder. Copper and brass should be cleaned with special polishes.

Locks And Hinges

These should be taken apart and wiped clean. If they cannot be removed, spray oil through the keyhole.


If you have wet books, they should be dried as soon as possible to prevent mould forming. To dry very wet books initially stand them up on a piece of absorbent paper to drain.

Then place absorbent paper between the wet pages and leave the book on one side, removing and replacing the wet absorbent paper regularly.

When dryer, the book can be stood on its side with pages fanned until thoroughly dry. When dry place the book under a weight to prevent crippling of the pages. Leave the books under a weight for several days to weeks.

Smoke Odour

Wash smoke odour and soot off washable clothing at the first opportunity. Follow instructions on labels. This will also prevent mildew. If soot or mildew remains after washing seek professional advice.

Dry Cleaning

For clothes that should be dry-cleaned, if there is a delay, remove shoulder pads or trimmings that might bleed. Then soak in cold water with small amount of synthetic detergent. Do not soak too long. Rinse in cold water gently squeezing out the water to avoid wrinkling, and then place on a hanger.

Dry cleaners can deal with soot, water damage and smoke odours.


Remove surface dirt, and wipe off with cold water then, wipe dry. Stuff shoes with crumpled paper. Dry them away from heat or sun.


It is almost impossible to remove odours from feather or foam pillows however you can try placing the pillow in a bag with baking powder, shaking and leaving overnight then hanging out on a clothes line or placing in a dryer on a non-heated setting.

Wool Blankets

Shake and brush surface dirt from blankets. Use manufacturer instruction for cleaning if possible. Otherwise, soak in lukewarm detergent for 15 minutes. Turn two or three times by hand if needed.

Then rinse in lukewarm clean water. Then either dry in a preheated dryer with some hot bath towels or hang the blanket over two parallel lines. If you use a dryer remove blanket while damp and finish drying on two lines. Gently stretch the blanket into shape and finish by brushing it. Iron the trim.


If a mattress that has been damaged has to be used temporarily, expose it to sunlight and cover with rubber or plastic sheeting. NEVER allow a person to sleep on a plastic covered mattress without a sheet or blanket between the plastic and the user.

Cleaning Walls

Walls with soot on them can be washed with detergent solution. Wash a small area at a time working from the floor up.

For water-damaged walls, wash while they are still wet if possible, if damage is substantial, it will be necessary to use a primer coat of paint first. Plaster walls can be repaired whilst still damp. Consult a decorator but do not paint until thoroughly dry.


Wood placed under water for any amount of time expands. When floors buckle badly, take up the trim boards, and then remove one board along the edge of the floor. The wood will shrink back to normal when dry.

Wood Furniture

Clean any dirt off furniture and remove drawers until dry enough to prevent sticking. Scrub with stiff brush and cleaning solution, dry thoroughly, open door and windows for ventilation. Wet wood will decay and go mouldy. Do not dry furniture in the sun as it can warp.

Upholstered Furniture

Dry upholstered furniture as quickly as possible to prevent mildew and rotting. Brush off dirt and shampoo if necessary. Apply suds (not water) only with sponge or damp cloth, then blot dry. Brush pile fabric one way only. When completely dry brush or vacuum residue.

First Aid For Furniture

Rub surface with a cloth wrung from a mixture of household ammonia and half-cup of water. Wipe dry polish with wax. Alternatively, rub surface with a cloth wrung from equal parts of turpentine and linseed oil.

Linoleum Tiles

If water seeps under linoleum, it will cause bad odours after a few days. If this happens, remove the entire sheet. Linoleum can only be relayed when floor is completely dry.

Cleaning Rugs

If a rug has been soaked and soiled let it dry thoroughly. Then remove the residual dirt by beating, sweeping or vacuuming. If necessary, shampoo using a soft brush in a circular motion. Wipe with soft cloth dampened in lukewarm water and use as little water as possible.

Coping With A Crisis

Your experience is a very personal one but this leaflet will help you understand how others have reacted in similar situations. It will also show how you can come to terms with recent events and avoid potential pitfalls.

Normal feelings and emotions you may experience after a fire:


  • Of Damage to yourself and those you love
  • Of being left alone, or having to to leave loved ones
  • Of ‘breaking down’ or ‘losing control’.
  • Of a similar event happening again.


  • Because crises show up human weakness, as well as strengths.


  • For all that is gone.


  • For being better off than others, (e.g. surviving, not being injured or still having material things).
  • Regrets for things not done.


  • At what has happened, at whoever caused it or allowed it to happen.
  • At the injustice and senselessness of it all.
  • At the shame and the indignities.
  • At the lack of proper understanding from others and their perceived inefficiencies.
  • “Why me?”


  • For having been exposed as helpless, ’emotional’ and in need of others.
  • For not having reacted as you would have wished.


  • Of loss or of love for the other people in your life who have been injured or died at other times.


  • For all the plans that cannot be fulfilled.


  • For the future, for better times.

It is natural to have these feelings, though they may vary in intensity according to your circumstances. Acceptance of the situation and loss will only be made possible by allowing these feelings to come out. This will not lead to a loss of control, but stopping such feelings may lead to other and possibly more complicated problems.

Remember, crying can give relief.

Physical And Mental Sensations

Some common sensations are tiredness, sleeplessness , bad dreams, fuzziness of the mind (including loss of memory and concentration), dizziness, palpitations, trembling, difficulty in breathing, choking in the throat and chest, nausea, diarrhoea, change in sexual interest and muscular tension which may lead to pain (e.g. headaches, neck and back aches, abdominal pain/tummy ache, menstrual disorders).


Your mind may allow the misfortune to be felt only slowly. At first you may feel numb. The event may seem unreal, like a dream or something that has not really happened. Other people often see this wrongly as’ being strong’ or ‘uncaring’.


Helping others may give you some relief.


Facing the reality, by attending funerals, inspecting losses or returning to the scene, can help you to come to terms with the crisis. At this stage, there is a need to think about it, talk about it and at night to dream about it, over and over again. Children will react by playing out and drawing the event.


It can be a relief to receive other people’s physical and emotional support. Sharing your thoughts with others who have had similar experiences can also help.


In order to deal with feelings, you may find it necessary to be alone or just with family and close friends.

Some Dos And Don’ts

DO take time out to sleep, rest, think and be with those important to you

DO try to keep your life as normal as possible.

DO let children talk about their emotions and express themselves in games and drawings.

DO send your children back to school and let them keep up with their activities.

DO drive more carefully.

DO be more careful around the home.

DO express your emotions and let children share in the grief.

DO take every opportunity to review the experience

DO allow yourself to be part of a group people who care.

DON’T bottle up feelings

DON’T avoid talking about what happened.

DON’T expect the memories to go away- the feelings will stay with you for a long time to come.

DON’T be critical of your reactions.

Family And Social Relationships

New friendships and relationships may develop. On the other hand, strains and conflict may appear in existing relationships. You may feel that family and friends offer too little support or the wrong kind or that you cannot give as much in return as they expect.

Accidents are more frequent after severe stress. Alcohol and drug intake may also increase, due to the extra tension.

When To Seek Help

  • If you feel that your emotions are not falling into place and you are still experiencing tension, confusion, emptiness or exhaustion.
  • If, after a month, you continue to feel numb or you have to keep active in order not to think about it.
  • If you continue to have nightmares and poor sleep.
  • If you want to share your feelings and have no-one with whom to do so.
  • If your relationships seem to be suffering badly, or sexual problems develop.
  • If you have accidents.
  • If you continue to smoke, drink or take drugs in excess since the event.
  • If your work performance suffers.

DO remember that you are basically the same person that you were before the crisis.

DO remember that if you suffer too much or too long, help is available.

Source: British Red Cross


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