CBIZ Sattler Adventure Sports Blog

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Ward, Hayden
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How Can Your Outfitter Prepare for a Wildfire?

Wildfire Safety for Outfitters

On average, more than 100,000 wildfires destroy four to five million acres of land in the U.S. every year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Wildfires are increasing in severity, frequency and duration, largely due to longer wildfire seasons caused by hotter and dryer weather, earlier melting of winter snowpacks and changing meteorological patterns due to climate change. As a result, business owners must take precautions to minimize property loss and damage.

Here are our top recommendations for actions to take before, during and after a wildfire so your business can get back up and running as quickly as possible.

Steps to Take Before a Wildfire

Include Wildfires as Part of Your Business Continuity Plan

A business continuity plan outlines how businesses can restore critical operations during an unplanned disruption. However, studies have shown that more than half of all organizations worldwide do not have a business continuity plan in place. These businesses are at higher risk of reduced productivity, financial loss, reputational damage and business failure. When creating a business continuity plan, it’s important to identify the most serious threats by focusing on the most likely disruptions and their potential impact.

Importantly, your business and your employees must be prepared to put your business continuity plan into action. Make sure it is updated and communicated and that all employees understand their roles. Also, keep in mind that employees may need time to prepare their homes and attend to their families.

Review Insurance Coverage

Fire is a cause of loss typically covered by most commercial property policies. Before catastrophe strikes, it’s important to take the time to do a detailed insurance policy review to ensure the coverage is adequate. Considerations include:

  • Policy Limits: Are the building(s) and contents insured to value?
  • Business Interruptions: Is there coverage for a potential loss of income while the premises are unusable?
  • Extra Expenses: Is there coverage for any extra expenses incurred while operating the business from a temporary location?

Protect Your Property

These are the key steps your business can take to protect your property and reduce the chance of sustaining a significant loss:

  • Create a defensible space around the property. Since wildfires rely on heat and embers moving between fuel sources to spread, it’s essential to provide less fuel for the fire by creating cleared zones around the property.
  • Install Class A-rated roofing. Class A-rated roofing, such as concrete or clay roof tiles, fiberglass, asphalt composition shingles or metal roofs has been proven to provide the most effective fire protection in severe fire test exposures.
  • Check fire hydrants and water supplies. Fire hydrants should be no more than 250 feet from primary buildings and connected to a reliable public or private water source. Contact your local fire department to help with testing and maintenance. If located in an area without fire hydrants, consider maintaining a water supply that can control small fires until emergency personnel can arrive. This may include installing a water tank or hoses and pumps to an existing swimming pool, pond, river or lake.
  • Use fire-resistant building materials. To decrease the risk of property damage, signage, exterior walls, fences, walkways, decks, roofing, gutters and stairs should all be constructed with fire-resistant, non-combustible materials, such as steel, masonry, ceramics and fiberglass.
  • Upgrade windows. Double-paned windows with tempered glass can offer increased protection against radiant heat.
  • Clean off the roof and gutters. To minimize the risk of ignition, your property’s roof and gutters should be cleared of all debris, such as pine needles and leaves.
  • Cover vents with mesh screens. Airborne embers can get into a building through the vents. Therefore, vents should be equipped with a one-half-inch mesh screen. Accumulated debris must be removed from vent screens to limit the combustible material that can ignite.
  • Take photos and videos of interior and exterior assets. Doing this before any wildfire damage can help jump-start the insurance claims process.
  • Back up data. Lost data can slow down the process of getting a business back up and running. To minimize loss, data should be backed up to the cloud and on an off-site drive.

 

Steps to Take During a Wildfire

In the event of a wildfire, follow these steps to reduce damage and keep your employees safe:

  • Keep track of updates. Closely follow alerts from federal alert systems, local or state wildfire websites, and threat intelligence systems.
  • Close windows, vents, doors and blinds. The fire’s reach can be limited by closing windows, vents, doors and blinds.
  • Shut off gas, pilot lights and propane tanks. Turning off the gas supply and other gas sources can prevent feeding the fire.
  • Turn on all lights. Lights should be left on so firefighters can see the building under dark and smoky conditions.
  • Shut off heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. HVAC systems should be turned off to prevent outside smoke from entering the building and causing preventable damage.
  • Move flammable items inside. Tables, chairs, benches, equipment, signage and other loose items must be moved inside.
  • Follow evacuation warnings. Evacuation must take place as soon as it is deemed unsafe to stay; employees and others must not wait to receive an emergency notification if threatened by a fire. Otherwise, they should be prepared to follow evacuation warnings from local officials. Employees should be sure to take a safety kit and lock up the property. If unable to evacuate, people should stay inside, away from outside walls and leave doors unlocked in case firefighters need access.  

 

Steps to Take After a Wildfire

Wildfires can still pose a serious threat even after the flames have subsided and cleanup efforts have begun. Without a strategic recovery plan in place, it may be difficult to return to normal operations. The following steps can help rebuild your business:

  • Maintain communications. Internal and external communications should be established with insurance professionals, displaced personnel, customers and vendors.
  • Return when safe to assess and document the damage. Return to the site only after the proper local authorities have granted permission. When safe, those at the site must dress for recovery operations — heavy, thick-soled footwear, leather gloves, hard hat, safety glasses, safety vest and mask. Be sure to take photos and videos of any damaged property.
  • Check for other potential hazards. The site and building should be inspected for smoldering debris, live embers, heat pockets and ash pits. Other hazards include broken glass, sharp metal, weakened utility poles, trees and branches, live electrical wires, fuel gases or flammable liquids. Dead plants, trees or dry vegetation that could be ignited by flyaway embers must be removed.
  • Secure the area from future damage. Securing the area and checking for structural damage to the ceiling, roof, windows and doors can prevent more damage from occurring. Any dangers should be marked off with caution tape and areas must be sectioned off until their safety is confirmed.
  • Initiate repairs and salvage. Establish priority repairs and begin salvaging the property. Consult with local experts to begin the restoration process.

While you may not be able to reduce the risk of a wildfire occurring, there are measures you can take to protect property and employees. It may seem overwhelming to create a wildfire response plan, but fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. To learn more about wildfire preparedness practices and specific policies available, working with a qualified insurance broker is essential. Connect with us today to learn more. Request a free CBIZ Adventure Sport Insurance quote.

This blog may contain scenarios that are provided as examples only. In an actual claim situation, coverage is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy issued. The information provided is general in nature and may be affected by changes in law or the interpretation of such laws. The reader is advised to contact a professional prior to taking any action based upon this information.

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