The dry, hot weather means an increasing danger of wildfires. These can make your business vulnerable to damage, as we saw recently in Fort McMurray.
As a property owner, you can take steps to help protect yourself from a wildfire spreading to your land or buildings. Below are five suggestions to help you prepare and reduce the risk of damage from a wildfire.
Having the right information at the right time can make all the difference in helping you react before it’s too late. Monitor your local news radio and TV stations and stay up to date on weather developments. Go online and find out what weather alerts are available in your area and check them frequently. If you have a Twitter account, “follow” your local weather stations to get the latest updates sent to your mobile phone.
Create a defensible safety zone
Trees, grass and shrubbery are all fuel for wildfires. Minimizing the amount of vegetation surrounding your property can help lessen the risk of a fire reaching and damaging your property and possessions. Inspect the land surrounding your property and remove highly flammable vegetation such as pine and fir trees, and keep lawns green and mowed. Move landscaping plants and vines away from the sides of your property.
Be visible to emergency services and be evacuation-ready
Is your office building visible to emergency crews in the event there is a fire and you call 9-1-1? If not, make sure the address is clearly visible from the road to passersby, and your street sign is fireproof. Furthermore, plan access and evacuation routes. Driveways should be at least 5 meters in width to allow for easy entrance of fire trucks. Lastly, plan a safe escape route for you and your employees, and ensure everyone knows the plan. Put up signs at every exit showing the evacuation route for that particular area.
Plan your transportation and find a place to stay
Once you’ve figured out your evacuation plan, decide on your means of transportation. If you plan on evacuating by car, keep your car fueled and in good condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car that includes supplies, food and change of clothes. If you need to share transportation, make those arrangements in advance, and research public transportation schedules to make sure everyone in your company gets home safely. In the event that you need to relocate for a period of time, identify a place you and your employees could go to.
Safeguard your valuables
A wildfire can happen at any time and as a result you may need to evacuate your premises at a moment’s notice. To be prepared, keep all of you important documents such as insurance forms, bank information, contact information and client lists in one place. Best practices are to keep these documents in a fire proof safe or cabinet.
If you own vehicles, make sure they’re insured and, if you have time, transport them to a safe location in the event of a wildfire. Also, ensure you have a reliable external water supply to help protect your structure and natural areas from fires.
Ensure your disaster recovery plan and insurance policy are up to date
Statistics show that one in four businesses do not re-open after disaster strikes, and many that do re-open struggle to stay in business. Preparing ahead of time can help increase your business’ chances of surviving and resuming operations after an incident. For this reason, part of your Risk Management program should be dedicated to ensuring business continuity and resumption of normal operations as quickly as possible. Regularly review and update your disaster recovery plan.
Also, check in with your insurance provider often to find out exactly what is covered under your business insurance policy. If you have multiple office locations, check all insurance policies to ensure that you have sufficient liability protection against damages.
Wildfires can occur anywhere and at any time. By taking preventative measures early on and preparing for an emergency, you can act quickly to help protect your property from a wildfire when disaster hits.
Northbridge General Insurance Corporation is the insurer of Northbridge Insurance policies.