Last year’s California wildfire season, which included the deadly Camp Fire, was the worst in over a decade, with more than 7,500 wildfires destroying over 1.8 million acres.1Although the American West -- and California in particular -- are more prone to wildfires, the reality is these severe weather events and their attendant destruction can and do occur in every U.S. state. In 2018, wildfires cost the U.S. approximately $24 billion, primarily due to the destruction of homes and infrastructure.2
Wherever wildfires occur, they can create severe economic losses. Taking preventive measures to protect your business from fire is an important first step. Zurich’s Risk Engineers offer these recommendations to get you started.
How to prepare for a wildfire: Do you have a plan?
A good place to begin is the creation of a pre-incident plan. This plan is a checklist that includes information about a specific facility, allowing firefighters to find key equipment and navigate a smoke-filled interior.
A pre-incident wildfire plan typically includes:
- The layout of the building on the property
- A complete floor plan of each level of the building
- Pertinent structural features, such as building size, height, construction and fire-rated walls
- Description of occupancies
- Site features, such as occupants with special rescue needs, unoccupied floors, daytime and nighttime occupancy loads, etc.
- Alarm system information
- Hydrant information (i.e., fire flow)
- Building fire protection systems
Zurich Risk Engineers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration3 also recommend these risk management strategies for wildfires to protect your property:
- Have sufficient defensible space – free of vegetation and other combustibles – between your business and any nearby forest.
- Where possible, remove flammable storage, vehicles and, especially, propane tanks from the property, or move them at least 30 feet away from the building.
- Seal openings with small mesh, non-combustible covers.
- Fully close and seal windows and doors, including garage doors.
- Whenever possible, use fire-resistant materials for construction, renovation and repairs of your facility.
How do you create a wildfire evacuation plan?
Effective pre-fire planning helps save physical structures, but its ultimate aim is to protect people. Owners can engage local authorities, as well as their employees, to develop pre-wildfire strategies, which can include:
- Regular inspections by the fire department to ensure firefighters are up to date on any changes in your facility
- Consultation by owners and managers with fire officials to determine what is expected of them and the building’s occupants in the event of an emergency
- Regularly scheduled fire drills
- An emergency response/contingency plan