After Burn: What's Next for a Building Following a Fire What Professionals Should Do to Help Those Impacted

(istock.com)

There are few things more traumatic than dealing with a fire in one's home. From loss of possessions either replaceable or one-of-a-kind, to the exponentially more horrific potential of lost human life, the baseline is bad -- and things can only get worse from there. A co-op or condo resident, after having survived the actual flames, must now navigate a probably unfamiliar bureaucracy of repairs and restitution. They have to deal with both their own personal situation as well as that of the building at large--not to mention bounce between board members, property managers, contractors, and insurance professionals. 

All of this is likely to be an emotionally exhausting and stressful process - but with competent, empathetic professionals to help put the pieces back together, the process can be made at least a little bit smoother. 

Compassionate Calm

From a property management standpoint, dealing with the effects of a fire involves protecting the interests of the building and the association, while simultaneously dealing with very real and emotional human beings who've been through a traumatic event. Balancing the practical with the personal can be challenging, to say the least.

“Recently, we had a 12-year-old girl wake up early one morning and light incense in her apartment,” recalls Josh Koppel, President of HSC Management Corp in Yonkers. “The owner must have been a hoarder, because the whole place just burst into flames. And the girl's grandmother burned to death. The family was related to a board member; I knew them."

So what do you do in such an awful, tragic situation? "You call, give your condolences, send flowers," says Koppel, "and let them know that you're available if there's anything else that you can do. And then you have to consider that a fire in the building not only affects families in its direct radius, but it reverberates,” he continues. “There's water damage, or doors are broken into. I once had people throwing their stuff out of a window down a fire escape, nearly giving a heart attack to the older woman below on the first floor.”

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