What To Do After A Business Fire

Fire line do not cross yellow ribbon across a business entrance.
| 10.13.22
Susan G.

A fire can immediately devastate a small business. Knowing some tips on managing what happens after a fire before one breaks out is helpful. Your priority is accounting for all your people and anyone else who may have been in the building. You need to ensure everyone is safe by doing a headcount, then alert the fire department if anyone is missing. Once you have people accounted for, you can consider your next steps. We have suggestions for you here.

How To Recover From A Business Fire

Start documenting. The sooner, the better! Details matter. Here’s an idea of what you need to document after a fire strikes your small business.

  • Document details about the fire itself. How did it start? Where did it start? When did it start? What time did the fire department arrive, or did you extinguish it yourself?
  • Detail how you were prepared for a fire. Were your smoke detectors in good working condition? Is your fire extinguisher up to date? Did you have an emergency policy for your employees that was followed? Did sprinklers function as expected if you have those?
  • Start a contact log. List who you spoke with, at what time and date, and the content of the calls, texts, or emails. You will thank yourself later for having this information on hand.
  • Detail the damage. Was specific equipment damaged? Only certain areas of the office? Did the fire spread to other businesses? List out everything impacted by the fire.
  • Keep a file of all receipts of expenses related to the fire. You’ll need to know this information for any insurance claims.

Call the building owner if you leased the space where the fire occurred. The building owner will need to know what happened ASAP. Follow up later to talk if you cannot continue your business in the space.

Call your insurance company. You’ll need to report any losses ASAP. You’ll want to call the company listed on your policy. Check online! Some insurance companies have online claim systems that you might find more convenient. 

Secure your property. Depending on the severity of the fire, you may need to remove or secure valuable equipment or block off entryways once the fire department has allowed you access. Gather important papers like your insurance policy, business license, and human resources records if you're able. Do your best to thwart thieves.

Call your utility companies. If you won’t be occupying the space for a time, or if it would be dangerous to continue to have certain utilities running, call the utility companies to turn them off. You can ask the fire department if it is okay to leave the gas and electricity on or not. You likely won’t be able to turn utilities back on until the space passes an inspection and repairs are finished.

Contact employees, customers, and any vendors. If the fire impedes customers from being able to shop or employees from reporting to work, you’ll need to work on a contact plan. You could even hire a PR firm to help. The local newspaper can get the word out about the fire and when you might re-open, and you can update your Facebook and Google business pages. Call employees personally and answer the questions they will have about their employment outlook. If you have vendor contracts, you’ll need to contact the vendors, as well as the post office and your bank.

Find a remediation or restoration company. If you have water damage from sprinklers going off or a firefighter’s hose, a remediation company can help you clean up. Many also help with smoke and fire damage, as well. Before signing a contract, find out if your insurance covers this because every little bit helps.

Prevent future fires. Take whatever you’ve learned from this terrible fire experience at your business and use it to shape a prevention plan for the future. What would you have done differently? Consider the common causes of business fires.

The goal is to minimize the damage to your business and get back to business as quickly as possible. The steps above vary depending on whether the fire closes your business entirely, impedes it partially, or just causes an inconvenience. Take direction from the fire department and your insurance company regarding what to do—and what we’ve presented here as simple suggestions. We hope you never have to experience a fire, but if you do, we hope getting back to business is as smooth as possible.

About the Author

B2Z Insurance is a small business insurance company that provides coverage for on-the-go business owners: simple explanations, easy application, digital quotes, and mobile claims. A product that is easy-to-use and helps you assess the unique coverage needs of your business with confidence—freeing you up to grow your business.