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Preparing your business and employees for wildfires


It’s that time of year when wildfires burn millions of acres and destroy hundreds of homes and businesses. When weather conditions such as strong wind, low relative humidity, and high temperatures make wildfires more likely, the National Weather Service (NWS) issues notices.

Watches, warnings, and evacuation notices are designed to provide adequate time for evacuation. Here’s a look at what they mean:

  • Fire weather watch: NWS issues a fire weather watch when potentially dangerous fire weather conditions are possible over the next 12 to 72 hours.
  • Fire weather warning/Red flag warning: A fire weather warning or red flag is issued when fire danger exists and weather patterns that support wildfires are either occurring or expected to occur within 24 hours. Authorities may issue a fire weather watch before a warning, but a warning may also be the initial notification.
  • Evacuation notice: In the worst cases, local authorities may issue an evacuation notice to alert people that a fire is nearby and that it’s important to leave the area. Evacuation orders vary by state and community and may be voluntary or mandatory.

Preparing your business

You need to prepare before any warnings are issued. At Hortica, we’ve come up with some suggestions to help you limit the damage before, during, and after a wildfire. Here’s where to start:

  • Look low: Move anything stored outside that’s likely to burn at least 50 feet away from buildings.
  • Look high: Check roofs and gutters and remove any leaves, tree limbs, pine needles, or other debris that could catch fire.
  • Stock up: Have emergency supplies stocked and ready to go. That includes flashlights, battery-powered TVs and radios, and extra batteries. Don’t forget about first-aid kits, water, and non-perishable food.
  • Plan ahead: Develop an emergency response plan specifically designed to handle a wildfire at your business.
  • Practice the plan: Test your emergency plan each year so you and your employees understand how it works. It’ll also help you identify anything that needs changing.

When your plan is ready, share it with emergency responders and community leaders to coordinate everyone’s efforts. While you’re thinking about emergency responders, help them find you quickly in an emergency by making sure they can find you. Clearly mark your address on entrances and buildings.

If a wildfire does strike, safety is key. Be prepared to evacuate quickly. And, if there’s time, there are some things you can do that might limit damage:

  • Shift what’s inside: Close the window coverings. Move any supplies, furniture, or equipment that can easily burn away from outer walls. Instead, put them as close as you can to the center of the building.
  • Pull the plug: Disconnect equipment from power sources.
  • Turn the valves: Shut off any sources of natural or propane gas. Shut off any pilot lights.
  • Slow the flames: Use hoses and irrigation sprinklers to wet roofs, walls, nursery stock, and nearby landscaping to create a fire break and save your crops.

If your building is damaged in a wildfire, keep this in mind:

  • Wait until it’s safe: Don’t enter the building or grounds until emergency crews clear the area.
  • Watch your step: Stay clear of any downed electrical lines.
  • Look for problems: Once you’ve been told it’s safe to go inside, check all areas of your building for any signs of fire damage.

After a wildfire or other natural disaster, contact your agent immediately. A delay on your part could mean a delay in getting your claim processed. Be sure to include photos or video of the damage, as well as a detailed list of damaged items.  If possible, include their value and provide receipts.

If you have any questions about how to protect your employees, inventory, and buildings from other natural disasters, your Hortica insurance specialist is ready to provide some answers.

Related links:

Learn more about protecting your business, check out the Hortica Resources section.

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