Unfortunately, wildfires destroy thousands of acres of land and hundreds of buildings annually. Damages sustained at businesses may not be limited to fire damage, but could also include smoke and water damage to property, as well as lost income if a business has to shut down due to evacuation orders.

As urban areas extend farther into forested lands each year, the amount of damage is likely to increase. Despite a trend of increasing wildfire risk, preparation and planning can significantly improve the chances of a property surviving a wildfire. A preparedness plan should include knowing what to do when the threat of a wildfire is imminent. Here are some best practices that you should follow when creating your wildfire safety plan.

Before A Wildfire Event

Fuel reduction area

  • Create a fuel reduction area or safety zone to protect your property from fire.
  • Ensure there’s separation between buildings, automobiles, fuel tanks, outside storage areas, and high grass or wooded areas. This open area should be limited to well-irrigated small plants and grass.
  • Clear dry or dead brush, trees, grass, and other debris from the perimeter of your building.
  • Trim any trees so that the branches are not too close to the ground.
  • Routinely remove deadfall and trimmings from open spaces.

Property access

  • Ensure that any driveways and access roads are well maintained, adequately sized, and properly graded.
  • It is important that roads and parking areas are large enough to accommodate fire department vehicles.

Safe fire practices

Fire safety is important for all property owners, but extra steps are necessary to reduce the risk of fire in wildfire areas.

  • Store combustible and flammable materials located outdoors at an acceptable distance from buildings, fences, and vehicles. Consult local authorities for specific laws and requirements.
  • Store combustible and flammable liquids in approved containers only.
  • If your building is on a slope, store combustible and flammable materials and liquids lateral to the building, not uphill or downhill.
  • Establish a safe outdoor smoking zone, such as a paved area, where dropped smoking materials cannot start a fire. Provide appropriate containers for discarding smoking materials.
  • Avoid burning outdoors in dry weather or during the wildfire season.
  • Store garbage in fire resistant waste containers with tight fitting lids.
  • Keep roofs and eavestroughs free of leaves, branches, pine needles, and other debris that could fuel a fire.

Developing a wildfire plan

  • Business owners, managers, and supervisors should create a written wildfire response plan and make it accessible to all employees.
  • Hold regular discussions to ensure staff members know how to respond and communicate if/when a wildfire hits.
  • Engage in practice drills to give employees experience in properly reacting to wildfires in the event of an emergency.
  • Know evacuation routes and practice travelling along them. Know the safest place to go if an evacuation becomes compulsory because of a wildfire.
  • Set up ongoing data backup for your computer systems so you can access data remotely in the event of an emergency.
  • Reserve or make an agreement with an alternate location to continue business operations away from known wildfire zones during a wildfire event.

During A Wildfire Event

  • Keep an emergency kit close at hand. This should include insurance information, vendor and customer information, contact lists, and important personal documents.
  • Initiate the plan as early as you possibly can.
  • Shut down all building air intakes and close any windows, doors, garages, and building openings. Make sure to keep them unlocked.
  • Turn off your air conditioning, electricity, gas servicers, and any backup generators.
  • Ensure that all weather-stripping is sealed. If you find that they are damaged, seal them with duct tape.
  • Monitor your local radio station for any updates and evacuate the area if recommended.
  • Contact your insurer for advice or to answer questions on your policy coverage.
  • Contact your customers and suppliers to advise them of possible interruptions.
  • Contact your staff after the evacuation. Key contacts should be in your wildfire plan document.

After A Wildfire Event

  • Before returning to your business premises, try to gather as many basic supplies as you can. These supplies can include goggles, gloves, closed-toe shoes, your cell phone and charger, a flashlight, bottled water, garbage bags, and a first aid kit.
  • Walk around the perimeter of the building before going inside. Look for out-of-place electrical wiring or loose debris and ensure there are no gas smells. If there are downed power lines or a gas smell, call the hydro or gas company before entering the building.
  • Assess any damage, if there is any, and contact your insurer.
  • Take photographs of any damage before you begin cleaning up. These may help with your insurance claims process.
  • Survey the premises for hazards such as downed lines, collapse, or loose debris. Ensure site safety before permitting staff to begin operations. If needed, call an electrician or gas fitters to review the site.
  • Clean any air intake units before turning them on.

Ensure You’re Protected

Even after ensuring that you follow every best practice outlined above, things could still go wrong if you are involved in a wildfire. That’s why it’s important to invest in comprehensive coverage. Learn more about the tailored policies Federated offers by visiting our commercial property insurance landing page.

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.