Although fire can strike any community, wildfires have become increasingly dangerous in the western portion of the United States. As of August 19, 2018, almost 60 uncontained wildfires are burning, according to the USDA Forest Service. While some of those fires are occurring in areas that unoccupied by humans, others are threatening and destroying homes, businesses, and communities.
As a business owner, it’s important to be aware of what potential damage a wildfire could do to your business, whether you live and work in the western states or not.
If you own your own building, it’s important for your business to have property insurance. In the event of a disaster, this can help you recover some or all of the value of your physical building. But not all property insurance covers items like natural disasters. When you work with an insurance agent, you can discuss exactly what is and is not covered by the insurance options you have available to you.
In truth, all businesses are vulnerable to natural disasters, whether they be flooding, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards and ice storms, or fire. Any company should have a high quality set of insurance policies that protect them from as many of the potential problems that could arise as possible.
Business Interruption Insurance
Business interruption insurance specifically helps to cover the income a business loses if it is closed during a natural disaster, or while rebuilding after a disaster. Around 40% of businesses are unable to reopen after a disaster.
There are many reasons for this to happen, and most of them are related to cash flow (unable to find a new location, destruction of inventory, losing the audience due to a long period of closing). Insurance coverage can help keep a business open and functioning – or at least help it hit pause while it gathers itself back together and reopens with a fresh new face.
Business Continuity Plan
Also called a disaster recovery plan, this is a crucial part of your business operations. If a wildfire forced you out of your location today, what would happen? What parts of your business would still be able to operate? What would you use as a temporary location? How would you contact your employees? How would you notify your customers? 60% of businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan.
In the days and weeks after a disaster, these companies are likely to struggle in many ways. Even if they have insurance, they may be struggling to find the right information to begin to file claims. They may have lost most or all of their equipment, and be unsure of how to get even the most basic of operations up and running again. They may be unable to reach their customers – leaving their customers working with a competitor in order to get their needs met.
Offsite Data Storage
For even the smallest business, letting all company data rest on a single local drive is a mistake. If you are forced to evacuate your home or business location, you may not be able to take relevant computers or hard drives with you, and that may mean that you lose invaluable business data. It is crucial that at least backup data exist offsite.
For microbusinesses, this can be as simple as making sure to use a cloud service to store or backup files on a daily basis. More and more freelancers and solopreneurs use cloud computing to keep their information available on the go. This means that anywhere they have a WiFi connection, they have their data.
For small or medium sized businesses, this may mean contracting with a firm that handles daily backups. Data is still stored locally, but backups run nightly to ensure that all updated information is stored appropriately. For the largest companies, they may own an offsite facility of their own to maintain their data.
But knowing that your data is safe from natural disasters is a huge portion of making sure that your business can recover in the face of an event.
Be Aware of Physical Risk Factors
While the most all consuming wildfires won’t be stopped by any single property owner’s preparation, there are many things that property owners can do to help prevent smaller fires from becoming bigger ones. The NFPA has released fire prevention information sheets that suggest simple tasks like keeping roofs clear of leaves and debris, pruning tree branches to 6 or 10 feet off the ground, clearing brush or dry shrubs, and building with nonflammable materials.
Wildfires have the potential to do incredible damage to homes, businesses, and communities in general. By protecting your business from the different types of damage that wildfires can cause, you increase the chances of your business surviving the fire.