Steps for business recovery after a wildfire

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How to get back in business after a wildfire

  1. How to proceed as soon as the fire danger is over: safety steps.
  2. Structural damage? What to look for.
  3. More steps for recovery and resuming business.

Few natural disasters can cause as much damage to buildings and additional property like wildfires. Should this happen to your business, you’ll naturally want to return to business as usual as soon as possible. However, just as the need to evacuate prior to a wildfire must be taken seriously, it’s just as important to take steps for business recovery after a wildfire.

Just because the risk of an active fire is over doesn’t mean that all risk has passed. There are still factors to consider such as reduced building integrity, impaired fire-protection systems and damaged utilities and other systems that may present unexpected hazards. These issues must be safely addressed before you can start going back to work.

Related: Fire prevention tips for small businesses and shops

Here we’ll share some share key practices from Zurich Risk Engineers that can be used to help affected businesses cope with the challenges after a wildfire. Here are a few tips to consider:

When first responding to a damaged building or work site

Here are the important first steps for business recovery after a wildfire:

  • Don’t return to the site/building until it has been cleared by the proper local authorities.
  • Wear protective gear that includes thick-soled footwear, leather gloves, a hard hat and mask that guards against ash and dust.
  • Stock up with appropriate supplies including potable water, flashlights and extra batteries, as well as a camera to document conditions. Bring identification in case authorities are limiting access.
  • Thoroughly survey the premises for hazards such as live electrical wires; broken glass or metal; flammable liquids or leaking fuel gases; flammable atmosphere in the vapor space of flammable storage tanks; weakened power poles or trees/branches.
  • Watch out for live embers, smoldering debris and ash pits created by burning tree roots.
  • Check for signs of fire and/or structural damage to weakened hardscape/paved areas that could collapse.
  • Verify the status of your protective systems, including water supplies, fire sprinkler systems, fire pumps and alarms, and security systems.
  • Manage impairments to property- protection systems, getting them back into service as quickly as possible.
  • Consider posting security personnel if your building or site access isn’t controlled.
Related: Wildfire safety tips for businesses


Look for structural damage

If you’re seeing signs of structural damage, you may need a structural engineering evaluation that includes:

  • Checking the ceiling/roof, attic and outer walls for sparks, discoloration, smell of smoke, etc.
  • Using an infrared scanner, if available, to check for hot spots in the walls and ceilings.
  • Inspecting all windows and doors for damage, testing them for functionality.


Shifting to the recovery phase of steps for business recovery after a wildfire

  • Begin salvage as soon as possible to protect the facility, as well as identify damaged goods that can be saved.
  • Do not use water in the facility until authorities deem the water source is safe.
  • Plan and initiate repairs. Establish a priority list; contact respective contractors as soon as possible.
  • If the area surrounding your facility has been leveled by fire, consult with local experts on how to restore the land with fire-safe landscaping.
  • Evaluate mechanical and electrical systems. Have qualified personnel check utility systems and hazardous processes before returning them to service.
  • Clear roof and ground-level catch basins from fire debris.
  • Restore HVAC systems to maintain or restore building interior environment.
  • Check all electrical equipment for damage by inspecting circuit breakers and panels, switchgear and motors.
  • Heed health department recommendations, which may include tetanus shots to protect from bacteria in contaminated soil.
Related: How to create a fire protection and prevention plan for businesses

Follow these steps for business recovery after a wildfire to open your company back up with as little interruption as possible.