In recent years, several parts of the country have experienced some of the worst wildfires we’ve see in our lifetimes. Leaving a path of devastation to homes and businesses, they have also uprooted people, disrupted or closed businesses, and significantly impacted livelihoods.
To minimize the impact of wildfire on your business, there are several ways you can prepare and protect your property, your family and your employees.
1. Prepare and Protect Your People
Wildfires can stir up quickly, leaving not much time to act. Being prepared is vital to protect lives and the business you have built.
- Train your employees in general fire safety and protocols. Local fire departments often offer trainings on fire education, fire extinguisher use and other essential information.
- Establish and maintain an evacuation plan and practice evacuation drills with all employees.
- Keep fire extinguishers in different locations and maintain them.
- Make an Emergency Call List and distribute to all employees.
- Create an Employee Contact List that includes personal phone numbers.
- Establish a system for communication if the business is closed that may include text message alerts, a hotline or website.
- Create a wildfire emergency kit that is sufficient for all employees: flashlights, battery-powered portable radios, extra batteries, whistles, first-aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, protective masks and important docs such as insurance policies.
- Back up important business documents off-site or in the cloud.
- Make sure you have insurance coverages in place that can properly protect your business property and your income. Business interruption insurance is typically available as a rider to commercial property policies. This additional coverage kicks in when your business must close temporarily because of an unexpected event, such as a fire or natural disaster. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverages to have in place for your business.
2. Secure Your Structure(s)
Buildings and other structures on your property have flashpoints for wildfires. Properly maintaining these areas can help prevent and reduce wildlife impact:
- Keep your roof in good condition and clear of debris. Class A fire-rated roofs are recommended.
- Cover vents with 1/8 in. metal mesh screens to reduce entry points for embers.
- Install dual-pane windows with tempered glass that are less likely to break than single-pane windows from a fire’s radiant heat.
- Use non-combustible building materials like masonry, heavy timber or fire-retardant pressure-treated wood for decks, patios and porches.
- Take down or roll up awnings if a wildfire is approaching and store umbrellas and outdoor seating.
- Move propane tanks and other containers storing highly combustible materials at least 30 ft. from your structures.
3. Create Defensible Space Around Your Structure
Defensible space is the buffer between your property and the surrounding area. A properly maintained outdoor space will help prevent wildfires from reaching your buildings. Three zones help define defensible space and provide a framework for steps that can be taken to mitigate wildfire risk on your property.
Zone 1: 0 – 5 ft. from structures
Keeping the space immediately around your structures in excellent condition can lessen the intensity of a wildfire:
- Mow tall grass.
- Remove leaves and dead vegetation.
- Keep lawn hydrated and maintained.
- Prune tree branches 6 – 10 ft. from the ground.
- Cut branches overhanging structures.
Zone 2: 5 – 30 ft. from structure
This zone is important as an intermediate protective damper. Maintaining this area can diminish the size of an advancing wildfire and potentially divert it:
- Plant a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees. Generally, deciduous trees and plants are less flammable than conifers.
- Leave 20 ft. between individual trees and 30 ft. between clusters of two – three trees.
- Create fuel breaks such as driveways, walkways and lawns.
- Prune tree branches and clear fallen branches and landscape debris.
- Plant vegetation that retains moisture and needs minimal maintenance.
Zone 3: 30 – 100 ft. from structure
This is the space farthest from your structures and is the first preventable barrier if a wildfire is approaching. Managing this outlying area can help minimize wildfire’s impact on your entire property and structures:
- Remove smaller conifers that are growing between taller trees.
- Clear fallen branches and landscape debris.
- Replace highly flammable trees, shrubs and plants. Examples of flammable species include ornamental juniper, Leyland cypress, Italian cypress, rosemary, arborvitae, eucalyptus and some ornamental grasses.
Preparing is the thoughtful and smart thing to do. Taking these precautions can help prevent severe devastation from wildfire and protect lives and property. Encourage your employees to take these steps with their own homes and personal property.
This content is for informational purposes only. Consult your actual insurance policy for details regarding terms, conditions, coverage, and exclusions.