Commercial vs. Residential Fire Restoration

Commercial fires can be challenging for restorers, not every restoration company has the resources, organizational skills, or desire to handle commercial losses. Priorities for commercial losses can be very different than residential losses. Commercial insurance coverage is similar to residential insurance but some distinctions between them present unique challenges for restorers. In severe residential fire losses, priorities usually revolve around trying to restore items of personal property that have sentimental or familial historical value. In commercial losses, it’s how fast can I get up and running again?

Commercial & Residential Fire Restoration Services in Herndon, VA

The Difference Between Commercial and Residential Fire Restoration Priorities

Buildings are buildings, the various materials that make up the structure, framing, drywall, flooring, doors, windows, fixtures, etc., are readily available and typically easily replaceable. Unique or one-of-a-kind buildings, log cabins for example, would be an exception. The differences mainly involve the personal or business property (furniture, inventory, electronics, etc.) and the priorities that go along with those differences.

Buildings that are rendered uninhabitable or unusable due to the subject incident create markedly different implications for the resident or tenant. Typical homeowners’ insurance policies have provisions for alternative living arrangements to provide housing for the time it takes to rebuild. Commercial insurance is more complex in that the business must take into consideration how quickly they can reopen for fear of losing income, clients or customers, and employees.

Fire & Smoke Damage in a Commercial Space

We recently assisted a food service business that operated out of a multi-unit industrial warehouse complex that had been damaged by fire. A neighboring unit in the complex was completely destroyed by the fire including losing all of the business property as well as the building roof. Our client was fortunate that his roof was intact, however, fire residue and smoke odors affected his business property and inventory. Being in the food service business, our client needed to be up and running as fast as possible or fear losing customers that relied on his ability to prepare and deliver food.

Nearly all fire losses have separate coverages for costs that will be incurred during the course of the claim. For this example, we will focus only on the non-structural related things. When a business has a product to sell, typically that product should be declared a total loss as it cannot be sold as new. In some circumstances salvors may be called in to purchase products that have been only slightly affected by fire residues and odors, hence the term ‘fire sale’. In all losses, consumable goods are generally declared as total losses because insurers do not expect an insured party to ingest food or medications that have been exposed to fire and smoke. Other examples of consumable goods that are typically marked for replacement rather than restoration include single use items (e.g., paper plates, tissue, plastic utensils) or items such as paints, detergents, aerosol sprays, etc.

Commercial & Residential Fire & Smoke Restoration Services in Herndon, VA

Commercial Fire Restoration Plan

Our initial focus was on restoring the non-consumable goods (e.g., prep tables, rolling racks and trays that hold food, free standing racking, furniture, and equipment (even ovens and refrigerators). A building post fire is not an environment conducive to trying to restore property items so we crafted a plan to remove the salvageable items and transport them to our facility where they could be cleaned and decontaminated without risk of recontamination.

Our client was able to obtain a temporary building to rent to set up the food prep operations but did not yet have the equipment to facilitate that process. Our plan was simple and effective; we removed a quantity of property that could be held at our facility long enough so that we could clean it, then deliver it to his temporary location, literally the next day. This became a routine for the next few weeks, bring in a load, clean it, deliver it then head back to the fire scene and pick up another load, bring it back, clean it, deliver it, repeat as many times as it took to restore all of the property.

What happens to the non-salvageable consumable goods we talked about earlier? We document and inventory those items for the insurance company, then once an agreement is reached between the insured and the insurer, we ask for our client’s permission to dispose of it. This typically involves the use of roll off dumpsters, lots of them. By removing the non-consumable items first, it is easy to address the non-salvageable items left behind. We call it a process of elimination. Doing this in reverse order is quite difficult and usually results in errors.

This is very similar to what happens after a residential loss, the difference being that homeowners are not running a business out of their home and can generally be without their normal household goods for as long as it takes to rebuild. In commercial fires, turnaround time is of the utmost importance. Our client was able to stay working under temporary conditions, kept his staff intact and his clients satisfied.

Expert Commercial Fire Damage Restoration in Northern Virginia

Commercial losses are not for everyone who does restoration. It requires a commitment to stay on the job without interruption, a work plan that is efficient and effective as well as strong coordination and communication with the client. If you are looking for a reputable locally owned company, contact RestorTech Inc. at (703) 204-0401 or request an onsite evaluation.