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Fire damage Immediate measures, main causes for the scope of fire damage – subsequent damage

Decision makers must initiate immediate measures and minimise secondary damage.

Initial measures following fire damage

Experienced restoration companies can quickly implement critical immediate measures that can facilitate recovery options and reduce the impact following a fire or explosion. Below is a selection of such immediate measures:

  • Switch off all electronic devices and equipment and isolate the main power supply
  • Secure any damaged areas of the building, for example those at risk of collapse
  • Divert any remaining smoke and gases outdoors (e.g. open windows, external doors, smoke vents, etc.)
  • Seal off and protect unaffected areas to prevent the cross transfer of contamination
  • Close off drains and channels to prevent  the escape of liquids containing potential pollutants
  • Pump out any remaining extinguishing water
  • Remove water damaged interior objects (e.g. furniture, curtains, flooring, etc.) and stock items
  • Recover and remove any damaged documents and files, if necessary freeze them or immediately initiate drying/freeze-drying if water damaged
  • Move machinery, equipment, stock and assets to secure, unaffected areas where possible
  • Stop the development of corrosion: reduce humidity to below 40%, installing drying equipment as necessary to control environmental conditions and apply corrosion protection to machinery, equipment, stock and assets
  • Initiate the recovery of critical data
  • Document and record damage in as much detail and as accurately as possible
  • Notify your insurance providers
  • Initiate any pre-planned subsequent recovery measures

Download the BELFOR App for further tips on initial measures:


More than just a fire: don’t ignore the potential of secondary damage.

Quick, targeted decision making and positive action can prevent secondary damage from a fire. If production and logistics are a fundamental element of your business any interruption from the knock on effects of secondary damage could cause a metaphorical ’uncontrollable blaze’.  Keep an eye on supply chain risks and also consider  that your company may not have to be directly affected by the damage. Interruption to critical suppliers can quickly disrupt your supply chain. Prioritising recovery actions once the fire brigade has extinguished the blaze and the affected area is accessible becomes a crucial step. 

The measures included in all professional emergency plans are based primarily on protecting human life, and then preserving material assets. In effective crisis management the aim is to use quick decisions to ensure or restore the company’s ability to act. Typically however, the information urgently required to achieve this is only partially available immediately after damage occurs. This is often a major problem for those managing the incident as the scenario often demands that decisions need to made and they need to made quickly and correctly!

The decision-making challenge after an incident:

Typical damage processing

The situation requires many important and immediate decisions, but only little or insufficient information is available.

Quick action pays off: immediate measures can reduce costs by up to 85%.

The right immediate measures can stabilise damage, stop corrosion and avoid total losses following fire damage. When implemented quickly and competently they cannot only prevent avoidable secondary damage they can make successful restoration of machinery, equipment, technical systems, buildings, documents stock and assets possible. Experience has shown that immediate measures can be associated with three essential benefits:

  • The damage costs can end up being reduced  by up to 85%
  • Interruptions to operation can be significantly shortened
  • Quicker market entry is possible and losses of market share can be  minimised

Elvir Kolak, Managing Director at BELFOR Europe explains: ‘Over 30 years of restoration experience have shown that restoration is generally more economical and often faster than a new construction or investment in completely new machines, production systems or electronics.’ It should also be considered that immediate measures are typically covered by insurance following a fire and the insured party is obliged to minimise damage and should take appropriate measures to do so.


Did you know: secondary damage makes up more than 50% of total damages?

Major damage statistics for 2004-201311) in relation to the extent of fire damage show the largest proportion; 53.3% is attributed to secondary damage (e.g. corrosive soot and gases and poisonous or hazardous by product contamination).  In terms of damage value, secondary damage accounts for 52.6%, making it not only the biggest problems but also the most costly.

1)Source: Schadenverhütung in der Sachversicherung 2015/2016, Bericht der GDV Sach-Schadenverhütungs-Gremien)

The correct actions at the right time from experts is invaluable.

It's not just about implementing immediate measures quickly. The correct actions should be undertaken in the right sequence by experienced professionals to ensure the optimum benefits.  Some immediate measures can successfully be undertaken by qualified employees, especially those familiar with the building fabric & structure, machinery, equipment and assets. A selection of the most important measures can be found in the info box accompanying this article. If in doubt seek expert advise and support!

Prepare in advance: add emergency plans, involve specialist companies!

Many companies and organisations have recognised that engaging specialist restoration providers at an early stage can help save valuable time and money when disaster strikes. Large scale industry, manufacturing, logistics and also retail chains have all driven forward the integration of restoration companies into their global emergency and recovery planning. The simple awareness of such services within a company, the exchange of emergency contact details and a basic understanding of how to engage them can improve the initial response significantly when there is an incident. Some companies go further implementing framework agreements or specific programmes with prioritised services and targeted training for their staff. Learn more about BELFOR's emergency response Programme RED ALERT at

Our tip: Utilise the available expertise and experience of specialist companies to the benefit of your own!

Fire damage – take note of these six facts:

  • Fire and explosion ranked third in the 2015 list of global business risks with a share of 27%
  • Delayed decision-making after a damage event can threaten the very existence of your company
  • Specialist immediate measures taken after damage event can reduce costs by up to 85%
  • Secondary damage makes up more than 50% of the total damage volume
  • The right immediate measures can help to keep expensive secondary damage in check 
  • Make use of professional expertise from specialist firms in your emergency plans!
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