Residential fires can be quite devastating, but recovering from a fire that affects a small or large business is often strenuous, as there are many considerations when protecting your business from a fire loss. Commercial fires may not only affect the property in question, but managers, employees, business revenue, equipment, plus others may be affected. Here are the recommended steps to follow if your business or commercial property suffers a fire loss:
1) Determine the responsible party
The person responsible for handling recovery efforts after a fire will depend on whether you lease or own the building, the cause of the fire, and policy provisions, such as names of the policyholder and insured and how much coverage is available. There are some insurance policies that only cover contents, and not the structure itself or the materials used in construction of the building. Sometimes an investigation is necessary by local authorities and/or the insurance company, so it is essential to maintain records of all communications.
2) Protect the property from further damage
Many insurance policies have clauses that require the policyholder or insured to take reasonable measures to protect the property from further damage. This is critical in order to prevent any primary damages from creating secondary damages, increasing the cost to repair the property. For example, a fire may damage the plumbing system, causing water leaks that may not be noticeable immediately, but water leaking over time may damage the floor or other valuable contents in the building. An appropriate security measure in this situation would be to seal leaks wherever possible and to transport contents into a safe location, hence protecting them from further damage. It is also important to maintain receipts and documentation of all repairs made at your expense, if they are necessary before the insurance company is able to pay for repairs.
3) Maintain communication with all affected parties
The next step is to contact all persons who may have been affected by the fire, including managers, employees, partners, and customers. If business operations are to be paused for an extended period of time, it is necessary to keep everyone in the loop with status updates. Keep in mind that several people are often affected by these events, with loss of rental income for the building owner, business revenue, and employee wages.
4) Gather all documentation
You may be required to submit a proof of loss form, if requested by your insurance company. In addition, it is important to maintain records of receipts, credit card statements, pictures of damages, or any other critical information when documenting loss. This may also serve as evidence if any court proceedings followed.
5) Repair and restore the property
Unless the insurance company declares the property as a total loss, you should be able to make the necessary repairs in order to restore the business back to its original condition, prior to the loss. It is important to consult with the right experts regarding how particular items need to be repaired or replaced.
6) Recover and protect critical data
Computers, hard drives, and servers often contain vital components of daily business operations, all of which may be lost in the event of a fire. It is important to maintain backup copies of all vital information as a preventative measure, but in the event of a fire loss, it may be necessary to hire a third party who specializes in data recovery. Such specialists are typically equipped with the right tools and will utilize specific techniques in data recovery and provide advice regarding loss prevention.
7) Re-open business operations
When you’re finally ready to re-open the premises and resume business operations, it is highly recommended that you implement a comprehensive fire safety plan, in the event of another future fire. You may also consider increasing the level of coverage. Survey all inventory for a total estimated value in order to make sure the coverage is sufficient.