If your business is under threat of a wildfire, it is important to be well prepared in advance to protect your property and your employees. Depending on the severity of the wildfire, your regular business practices could be interrupted, or you could be required to shut down completely, even if the fire doesn’t actually reach your property.
Most business property insurance policies will cover for damage due to wildfire including both flames and smoke. Additionally, Business Interruption insurance can be added to your policy to cover any continuing business expenses or lost profits if your service is interrupted.
An important part of wildfire preparation and protection is having a strong defensible space around your business. This means creating a buffer around your property through proper maintenance, location and selection of vegetation. Having proper clearance to 100 feet can dramatically increase the chances of your property surviving a wildfire.
- Zone 1 (0-30ft): Extending up to 30 feet from your property, this is your last line of defense from wildfire. Regularly remove any dead vegetation within this area. Cut long grass and make sure it stays hydrated.
- Zone 2 (30-100+ ft): From 30-100 feet surrounding your property, frequently remove dead vegetation and keep trees and shrubs groomed and well spaced from each other. Prune tree branches up 6-10 feet from the ground. Replace tree and shrub species that are highly-flammable with ones that are less-prone to fire and can retain more moisture.
Pay attention to the slope of the land that your property is on. Slope has the greatest influence on a wildfire’s behaviour, determining the rate and direction at which a fire can spread. Wildfires can move faster up a slope than they can downhill, so consider extending your defensible space farther than 100 feet if your property is on a hill.
Building Structure Security
Roofs are especially vulnerable to windblown embers during wildfires. Make sure that your roof and gutters are well-maintained and that they are regularly cleared of debris. Installing dual-pane windows with tempered glass can also provide increased protection from wildfires in comparison to single-pane windows.
Business owners that live in an area susceptible to wildfires should have an evacuation plan that is reviewed on a semi-annual basis. Train all employees on emergency and evacuation procedures and have the evacuation plan easily accessible to employees. Know which individual(s) within your company will be responsible for leading and coordinating the emergency plan and evacuation procedures. Keep in mind that a wildfire will likely affect your entire town or area, so incorporate likely evacuation zones and routes into the plan.
Protect and Document Your Property
It is a good precaution to keep an inventory of everything owned within your business through photo and video documentation. Store the photos and videos on a hard drive or cloud-based software. A number of apps can automatically upload and store the photo/video for you. This can provide valuable evidence towards a claim in the event that your property is damaged or destroyed from wildfire.
Beyond inventory photos, it’s important to review your data and electronic storage policy. Make sure that everything important is backed up to a hard drive or cloud, and that the backup is not kept in the same building or area as your business
If your business has commercial vehicles, make sure you have the insurance and registration information for the vehicles on hand and to take them with you if you are ordered to evacuate.
Communication During a Wildfire
Develop a crisis communication plan to communicate with your customers and clients during the event of a wildfire. They care about your business and would want to be informed of any closures or unexpected delays you may experience. This communication can be done through email and social media. Formulate a plan of how you will contact your employees if business is interrupted. Have employee and customer contact information backed up to a cloud-based software to allow remote access. Be sure to also have the contact information for your appropriate wildfire management agency and your local emergency services easily available.
If you are looking for more information on wildfire preparation, refer to our article on preparing your home and family.