Fire! How I kept my sanity after a Fire in my flat

The Event

I won’t forget August 27, 2018 anytime soon. That was the day my flat caught fire.

It was a Monday. I had left work early to go visit my parents and nephews at my parent’s Villa. Around 5:10 PM, I was just leaving the Villa to head to my flat. Just as I stepped outside, I got a call from an unknown number. I usually ignore them as these are 99% of the time nuisance spam calls. For some reason, that day, I answered the call. This is extremely unlike me as I never answer calls I don’t recognize.

A male voice at the other end identified himself as the Security from my building, verified that I am the owner and proceeded to tell me that the fire alarm was active in my flat and that there was smoke and odour emanating from my flat. I requested them to call the fire service while adding that they have my permission to break the door as I didn’t want anyone to be at risk.

I won’t go into the details of what happened.

Good news is that no one got hurt and no other flat except mine was damaged.

 

The Cause

The AC cooling pipes that carry chilled water had rusted and developed a crack. It started leaking water through the insulation, through the false ceiling and had shorted my microwave.

What’s frustrating is that despite all my OCD and carefulness, I’m not sure how I could have ever known that the pipes had rusted.

Luckily, the fire was put out before it could spread to other rooms or flats.

 

 

 

The Damage

My kitchen was badly damaged. All cabinets, counter top, dishes and utensils were all damaged. Luckily however, except for the microwave, all my other appliances still worked.

There was ash & soot everywhere. Every bit of flooring, walls, furniture, and curtains were covered with layers of ash and soot. The unfortunate thing is that two weeks before the incident, as part of Eid celebrations, I had had my walls painted, bought new linen, curtains & table cloths etc. These were all ruined.

As I own my flat, I had purchased good quality furniture. My sofa is made of suede and it really hurt to see it ruined.

Still, I feel I’m very lucky. Most of the damage could be addressed with some professional cleaning. I was thrilled that my prized possession, a 27” iMac was not damaged except for the keyboard.

Keeping Sane; Counting my Blessings

I have been good about keeping my Home Owner’s Insurance up to date. Shout out to ADNIC who were amazingly supportive, empathetic and quick about getting the survey done, helping me understand the process, answering my questions and finally giving me the reimbursement.

I love Dubai, because strangers I am friends with on Twitter offered me a place to stay. This above all was what kept me so positive throughout this ordeal.

My colleagues at work went over and beyond the call of duty to help me and support me.

Since my parents are here, I was Alhamdulillah very comfortable and happy spending time with mom and dad.

Some Things to do to Prevent a Fire

  1. Switch off all electrical outlets that you don’t need when you leave your home.
  2. Keep appliance areas always clean, clutter & dust free
  3. Clean your Washer/Dryer Lint collector after every wash/dry cycle if possible or at least once a week.
  4. Keep your fire extinguisher easily accessible in the kitchen.
  5. Get your Fire Extinguisher tested by professional service once a year.
  6. Leave the drain cover open in the kitchen, bathroom etc when you are not home. This helped me a lot as the leaking water drained through the kitchen drain, saving my flat from flood damage.
  7. Clean AC ducts & filters using a professional service at least once a year
  8. Have building maintenance or professional service check your AC cooler pipes and insulation once a year for leaks.

Insurance

  1. GET INSURANCE. It’s very affordable in UAE and my experience has been good. I paid AED 420 per year to ADNIC for Home Owners Content Insurance. I had renewed my insurance in May 2018. I feel very fortunate to have had the good sense to take this precaution.
     
  2. Understand what your Insurance Covers. Here is where I got a little blindsided.
  1. Home Owners’ Insurance / Renter’s Insurance: The Basic insurance only covers the CONTENTS of your home. Have your agent explain carefully what they define as content and what is the limit to which they would replace damaged content or pay for cleaning of the content. In my case, ADNIC said that re-painting my walls, professional cleaning of my home etc, were not included. What really surprised me was that the pipe damage and replacement of the same as well as the false ceiling was also not covered. I cannot stress enough to clearly understand what insurance coverage you have and clarify all definitions. For example, for me, my walls, paint, pipes etc, ARE my possession and are content within my flat. However, for the insurance coverage I had, content is defined and limited to the physical furniture, appliances, gadgets etc that you can purchase. Documents such as passport replacement was covered. Please pay attention to the deductible amount in case of a claim. This is the amount you must pay out of pocket. In my case it was AED 250. Know more about Home Contents Insurance here.
  1. My insurance covered me for Alternative Accommodation. If the surveyor deems your home is uninhabitable, then they will cover you on a per day rental rate of your home. For example, if the current rental rate for your flat is AED 100,000/year, then a per day rate would be about AED 274/-. In my case the limit for the total amount was AED 40,000 per year. In Dubai, it would be very hard to find a good quality hotel room for less than AED 600/night. Since it took me 6 weeks to move back into my flat, this could have been a serious expense. I am blessed that I was able to comfortably stay with my parents.
     
  2. All in all, I was reimbursed for about AED 9,200/- for furniture and appliances.
     
  3. Additionally, I paid AED 12,000/- out of pocket to replace the entire AC Cooler pipes and the false ceiling. My insurer advised me that this should be covered under the building’s insurance. My building management informs me that since pipes are within my flat, the building insurance won’t cover

    it. So, I am still trying to navigate this bit. However, ADNIC does provide additional insurance for structural damage which I am investigating now.

 3.   Get a small safe for your valuables like jewellery, passport etc. These are available for AED 200  at ACE. None of my jewellery or passport or important documents was damaged as they were in a safe.

What to do after the Fire

  1. Always keep your receipts. I have a file folder with all my receipts. Even though all of them are nearly 5 years old. This helped me a great deal in getting my quotes approved for replacement from the insurer. If you don’t have your receipts, it may depend on whatever criteria the insurer uses to determine value of the items lost and may take a lot longer for you to settle your claim. For example, I have a Quartz Technistone Kitchen Counter. These are relatively expensive. For example, an IKEA counter for my kitchen would be around AED 1000/- whereas the Quartz cost me AED 5,200/-. That was 5 years ago, and prices have gone up since then. My receipt was very helpful in getting my claim approved very quickly.
  2. Call your insurance agent as soon as you can after the fire.
  3. Ensure you get a Police Report or a Report from Civil Defence or your Building Management about the incident. In my case, the building security had not called the fire service and therefore there was no police report. I recommend always insisting on a Police Report. You will need this report to file your claim.
  4. Take as many pictures and videos of the damages as you can.
  5. Do not move anything.
  6. Schedule the Insurance Surveyor to visit your premises at the earliest. He/she will take pictures and try to assess cause of the damages. He will discuss with you about the incident. Answer as much as you can. My surveyor was amazing and empathetic.
  7. With you Surveyor’s approval, you may now move damaged items & debris. Always use a professional service provider.
  8. Once the Surveyor files his report, you will get an email/call informing you of your claim number and next steps.
  9. Put all your old receipts together, quotes for replacements and cleaning services as the case maybe and send these to your agent. In my case everything was approved within 2 days.
  10. Once you purchase and replace everything, send the original invoices to the agent along with Claim Discharge forms that they may send you. You should get your reimbursements within a week.

Breathe; Coping till You can Move Back In

It has taken me 6 weeks to move back into my flat. I was frustrated, angry and sad during this period but very grateful for all the support from family, friends and colleagues. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have adequate insurance cover.

Breathe. Bank your Patience. You will need a lot of patience.

Cleaning tips and tools

Soot and ash get everywhere. Be prepared to clean everything inside and outside, under and above, behind and in front. I was shocked at the amount of soot I found inside all my wardrobe shelves that were in rooms totally closed from the fire. Ash spreads, its very hard to clean. Here are the cleaning products that helped me a lot.

1. Shadazzle Multipurpose Cleaner & Polish. Absolutely brilliant! Its non-toxic and environmentally friendly to boot. Just dampen the sponge and rub a little bit on the sponge, lightly scrub and wipe with damp cloth. Works on wood, metal, glass, tiles. It’s on sale at ACE for AED 39, a bargain. Seriously.


 

 

 

2. Simple Green all-purpose cleaner. I’ve been using this for over 20 years. Environmentally friendly and biodegradable.

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3. Scouring Brushes / Electric Cleaning Brush set. I got mine at Tchibo for AED 50. It was great to clean between the tiles and grout. There was too much ash embedded in there for a normal mop to get it out. You need to use a bit of elbow grease for this job
 

 

 

4. Professional Cleaners: I have had multiple good experiences with professional cleaners from any of the online platforms for normal day-to-day cleaning. However, I had poor experience with professional cleaners in the aftermath of a fire. I used professional services twice after the fire, but things didn’t really get cleaned completely. You need to supervise a lot and unfortunately only you will take the utmost care for your own possessions. So, finally I opted to clean my flat myself and I am happier.

Blog contributed by Shaheeda Abdul Kader


 

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