Wildfire safety tips for businesses

Wildfire safety tips for businesses

 

Urge your clients to use these wildfire safety tips for businesses in their risk management plan

    • All states (except DE and D.C.) have experienced wildfires in recent years, so urge your commercial clients to create a contingency plan using these wildfire safety tips for businesses.
    • Learn the steps to prepare now – ahead of a fire with planning, creating evacuation routes, working with your local fire department, exterior building tasks and more.
    • Learn how to keep employees safe during and after a fire with steps you take now.

Even though your commercial clients may have a fire prevention plan in place to avert risk from onsite fires, wildfires are in a risk category all their own. Provide these wildfire safety tips for businesses to your commercial clients, to help them expand their risk management plan.

Extreme heat and drought. High winds. Lighting strikes. These add up to a perfect storm for wildfires (a firestorm, that is!), and we’ve got them all this year. As of the date this blogpost was written, there were 77 large fires burning in 15 states.

Every year, an average of 50,000+ wildfires burn 4-5 million acres. Last year, the majority of the fires were in California (a total of 8,194), Texas (6,892), North Carolina (3,872) and Georgia (3,158). Worse still, NASA says our fire season is lengthening, thanks to climate change.

Very few states are immune to these infernos. In I.I.I.’s list of 2019 fires, only D.C. and Delaware escaped blazes.

All that to say, your commercial clients DO run the risk of encountering a wildfire. That’s the first thing they need to understand when considering adding wildfire safety tips to their risk management / loss prevention plan.  Hopefully, it will never happen. But if it does, they’ll be prepared.

 

Wildfire safety tips for businesses

Prepare now

  • Develop a business continuity plan to mitigate the impact of a wildfire.
  • Review shutdown and evacuation processes, including data backup, as well as shipping important tools, equipment and records offsite.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
  • Keep important documents in a fireproof, safe place. Create password-protected digital copies.
  • Keep an adequate number of appropriate fire extinguishers in strategic locations (such as near loading docks and waste collection areas) and maintain them properly. Train employees on how to use extinguishers correctly.
  • Have tools, such as rakes, axes, saws, buckets and shovels, available to help control small fires while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.
Related: Fire prevention tips for businesses

 

Work with your local fire department

  • Provide your local fire department with information regarding your building, such as layout, description of occupancies, alarm/fire protection systems. Maintain side entrances and ensure they’re clearly marked.
  • Schedule regular inspections with the fire department.
  • Hold regularly scheduled fire drills to assess time, staff and resource needs.

 

Create evacuation routes and safety zones

  • Plan two evacuation routes out of your area. Consider how employees will evacuate on foot if roads are closed or impossible to use, such as if they are blocked by emergency personnel.
  • Remember that ponds, lakes, rivers and landscaping or swimming pools can serve as safety zones.

 

Invest in fire mitigation

  • Invest in exterior building surfaces that are either noncombustible or considered resistant to ignition by embers.
  • Create a fire-resistant zone free of leaves, debris, or flammable materials for at least 100 feet from your building (for grassland fires; for woodland fires, clearance zone should be 330 feet). Clean gutters regularly.
  • Keep grass mowed short and irrigate landscaping regularly.
  • Consider outside sprinklers for exposure protection.
  • Limit yard storage. Remove flammable items, vehicles and propane tanks from the property or move them at least 100 feet (30 meters) away from the building.
  • Close and seal building openings with tight-fitting, non-combustible materials. This includes any vents: cover with wire mesh.
  • Install tight-fitting, noncombustible doors, shutters and/or dampers that can be closed when implementing your wildfire plan.
  • Fully close and seal windows and doors.
  • Ensure your interior automatic sprinkler system has an adequate and reliable water supply.
  • Review insurance coverage to make sure it is enough to replace your property.
Related: It’s Fire Prevention Week. Share these fire safety tips with your clients

 

Employee safety

  • Keep appropriate emergency supplies on hand, including flashlights, battery-powered portable radio, extra batteries, first-aid kit, manual can opener, non-perishable foods and bottled water. If designated employees will be working to protect the property, have appropriate clothing available, such as work boots and gloves, personal protective equipment and sturdy work clothes.
  • Teach employees about wildfire risks and preparedness. Provide information to help employees protect their homes, too.
  • If you are located in a wildfire area, consider advising employees to keep personal disaster supplies and copies of important documents at work in case they need to evacuate from work without being able to get home.
  • Gather emergency supplies, including N95 respirator masks that filter out particles in the air you breathe. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including and updated asthma action plan and medication.
  • Pay attention to air quality alerts.

 

During a wildfire

  • Evacuation orders will often be swift and accurate for affected areas. Be prepared to leave immediately.
  • If you’re trapped, call 911 and give your location. Turn on lights to help rescuers spot you. However, remember that rescue crews could be delayed or unable to reach you.
  • Shut down building air intakes.
  • Turn off unnecessary utilities.
  • Use an N95 mask to keep out harmful particles as you breathe.

 

In the aftermath

  • Listen to authorities to learn when it’s safe to return, and whether water is safe to drink.
  • Avoid hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris and live embers. The ground may contain heat pockets that can burn you or spark another fire.
  • Check the roof, put out any fires, sparks or embers (if accessible).
  • If there is no power, check to make sure the main breaker is on. Fires may cause breakers to trip. If the breakers are on and power is still not available, contact the utility company. ALWAYS contact 911 if any danger is perceived upon re-entry, and contact local experts before finally moving back in.
  • Send text messages or use social media to reach out to family and friends. Phone systems are often busy following a disaster. Make calls only in emergencies.
  • Wear a NIOSH certified-respirator and wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Examine all HVAC systems, clean surface areas and replace filters before resuming operation.
  • Document property damage with photographs. Conduct an inventory and contact your insurance company for assistance.
  • Wildfires can lead to increased risk of flooding due to heavy rains or mudflows. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to 5 years after a wildfire. Consider purchasing flood insurance to assure financial protection from future flooding.

 

Resources

https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/WildfirePreparednessSBA.pdf
https://www.ready.gov/wildfires
https://www.zurichna.com/en/knowledge/articles/2019/07/is-your-facility-wildfire-resistant
https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/08/23/how-businesses-can-minimize-their-wildfire-risk-from-allianz-and-i-i-i/
https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/07/25/minimizing-wildfire-risk-11-preventative-measures-for-commercial-policyholders/
https://www.zurichna.com/en/knowledge/articles/2018/08/a-pre-fire-plan-can-help-save-property-and-protect-people
https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-wildfires#Wildfires%20by%20year