Wildfires: Planning Ahead to Help Protect Your Business
According to the USDA Forest Service, historic fire data shows that wildfires are not only getting larger, they also are becoming more intense. For any business with an exposure to wildfire, advance planning and proactive safety precautions can be critical in helping to reduce wildland fire property loss and injuries due to wildland fires. To help reduce risk and protect your business from wildfires, considerations should be given to the fire resistance of building structures, the topography of the land surrounding the property and the nature of and proximity to nearby brush, trees and vegetation.
Business Wildfire Protection and Preparation
Create Safety Zones Around Structures
- Remove combustible materials such as wood pallets, combustible yard storage, mulch, foliage and landscaping within 5 feet of the building. Also avoid having combustible materials, such as pine straw, within this zone.
- Trim back or remove trees outside of the 5-foot noncombustible zone that have branches overhanging the roof.
- Thin or remove any trees or foliage within 100 feet of your building or, at a minimum, to the property line, so as not to form a continuous path of vegetation to the building. Tree canopies should be at least 10 feet apart.
- If your business is located on a hill, extend the vegetation-free zone on the downhill side. Fire can spread more rapidly uphill.
- Some plants are considered to be more combustible than others. Choosing fire-resistant landscaping for your business can help reduce your wildfire risk.
Any flammable or combustible liquids should be properly stored in accordance with NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code.
Maximize Fire Resistance – Choose Construction/Building Materials Wisely
- If you are building new construction, remodeling or retrofitting existing buildings:
- Select exterior wall cladding made of noncombustible siding materials.
- Select roof covers with a Class A fire rating based on testing to ASTM E108 or UL 790.
- Select windows that are dual-paned with tempered glass or install fire shutters.
- Select gutters and downspouts made of noncombustible materials.
- Consider exterior mounted fire sprinklers to help protect the roof, walls and windows.
- Install 1/8-inch noncombustible mesh screening over all vents.
- Install spark arrestors with ½-inch mesh screening at the outlet of all chimneys.
Prepare Your Business for Wildfire
- Keep any fuel-powered fire protection pumps fueled and be sure to test them periodically.
- Consider developing an inventory of equipment and contents. This can help in recovery efforts if the interior of your business is impacted.
- Store important documents, data and an inventory of your property and furnishings in a safe location off-site or in a fire-rated safe.
- Have emergency contact lists and a communication plan to keep in contact with essential personnel, employees, vendors and suppliers, as well as key customers.
- Be sure to maintain accessibility around the building for fire department equipment.
- Develop emergency shutdown procedures. Determine timelines required to safely shut down production processes and equipment.
- Develop and document a business continuity plan, which should include alternative arrangements for continuing critical operations.
Create and Communicate Your Evacuation Plan
Given the rapidly changing nature of a wildfire, it is important to be prepared for a possible emergency evacuation. In addition to having a well-documented plan, be sure your plan is communicated with your employees well before a fire threatens your business. Your plan should outline where employees should go and what they should bring with them.
Other considerations should include:
- Having several possible escape routes in case one or more are blocked.
- Practicing your evacuation plan.
- Accounting for all members of your workforce prior to, during and after evacuation to help facilitate a safe and complete evacuation.
- Following disaster plan/emergency shutdown procedures. This includes processes, equipment, machines, HVAC and other building systems.
- Closing vents, windows, entry and shipping/receiving dock doors prior to evacuation. Be sure to shut off all sources of natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies.
Know How to Proceed After A Fire
Read OSHA's Wildfire: Response/Recovery.
Contact your local fire department, forestry office, emergency management office and building department for information about local fire laws, building codes and prevention measures. Obtain local building codes and weed abatement ordinances for structures built near wooded areas.
More Prepare & Prevent
Learn how to help prepare for a wildfire including tips for before the fire starts, and as it approaches and passes.
Here are some steps to help protect employees from poor air quality due to chemicals, gases and fine particles contained in smoke and ash from wildfires.
Agribusinesses should take steps to protect the property they’ve worked hard to build. Here’s guidance on some things you can do to be better prepared.