current wildfires

photo credit: USDA Forest Service

Sleepy Hollow. Annie. Paradise.

No, these are not movie references, but are three of the 45 named large fire incidents currently blazing across the western United States.

Large wildfires are not just a concern for California or the West, however; they are a phenomenon that can happen anywhere if the conditions are right. In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute, all but two states experienced at least one wildfire in 2014. Even if your business is not in the path of destruction, your operations can be impacted should suppliers and vendors you depend on be affected.

In response to the growing number of large wildfire incidents affecting the United States, the National Preparedness Level for managing firefighting resources throughout varying degrees of fire activity was elevated from Preparedness Level II to Preparedness Level III. In the wake of this increased fire activity, it is important to increase your own preparedness level by testing your incident management plans and communication efforts to ensure a smooth evacuation in case of fire:

  • Begin testing your fire evacuation plan by sending messages from the Respond to Incident section of your portal.
  • Be sure to test all forms of communication (SMS, email, voice, call-in announcement, conference call), if possible.
  • Consider identifying alternate safe assembly points at least 300 feet away from the building in the event the primary safe assembly point is inaccessible. Any change in assembly location should be properly communicated, as well.
  • After the test exercise, review your plan and update it accordingly. Any changes should be saved and uploaded to the Company Documents section of your portal.

When reviewing your plans, ensure there are parameters in place for reduced workforce and include work from home options, as large fire incidents make travel for business and employees going to work difficult due to road closures. Additionally, response efforts should also include accounting for disruptions to important suppliers and vendors on which your business depends.

More than just preserving lives, preparing your response to fires can help you protect your physical property, as well. Otherwise, the cost of property damage resulting from fires can be quite staggering. In 2012, for example, the NFPA estimated $2.6 billion in direct property damage was reported for non-residential structures*. Taking measures to use and maintain the right building materials and prevention practices—like using dual-pane windows with tempered glass and closing all windows before evacuating—can make it more difficult for fires to make entry and reduce the amount of damage.

For more information on reducing your fire risk, especially if you are in a wildfire zone, visit the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. To access the forest fire and wildfire content in your portal, visit the Knowledge Center and view the Natural Disasters threat category. If you have questions about how you can better prepare your team, contact your Client Services representative.

*As defined by the NFPA, non-residential includes public assembly, educational, institutional, store and office, industry, utility, storage, and special structure properties.

Marlia Fontaine-Weisse is the Content Manager for Preparis.