Texas has always had its fair share of wildfires. In recent years, wildfires have become increasingly common throughout the country. As a business owner, if you haven’t thought about wildfire preparedness recently, now’s the time. The key to avoiding the most amount of damage possible is preparation. Use the following checklist to help keep your office and employees safe.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends creating three zones surrounding your building.
Immediate 0 to 5 feet:
- Clear debris from your roof, gutters and vents.
- Replace roof shingles and fix any exterior damage like broken window screens.
- Avoid storing flammable items like firewood in this area.
- Cut grass shorter than 4 inches and clear away pine needles, leaves and any other flammable materials.
Intermediate 5 to 30 feet:
- Space trees carefully. Groups of trees should be at least 18 feet from each other.
- Create walkways, driveways and patios to act as fuel breaks in the event of a wildfire.
- Keep grass shorter than 4 inches.
- Ensure that trees are at least 10 feet away from your building.
Extended 30 to 100 feet:
- Remove dead plants and unnecessary ground debris.
- Make sure groups of trees have 12 feet of space between them.
- Clear plants around sheds and other storage buildings.
- Take out small conifers between large trees.
Create an evacuation plan and communicate with all employees. Make sure this plan is reviewed regularly and posted throughout the office. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the following process.
- Decide when this plan needs to be activated.
- Set a chain of command.
- Define the emergency actions and who will carry them out.
- Figure out the best evacuation routes, exits and safe meeting places.
- A process to account for employees, visitors and customers.
- Equipment needed for employees.
- Communicate the plan with everyone.
Practice emergency scenarios with decision-makers in your office. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests a preparedness discussion and tabletop exercise. When an emergency happens, you don’t have a lot of time to act. The more you practice, the smoother your emergency plans can unfold.
- Start with the basics: your office’s emergency policies, the impact of wildfires, the importance of the 5 P’s (people, prescriptions, papers, personal needs and priceless items) and sign up for the emergency alert system in your community.
- Follow up in future meetings. Avoid talking about emergency plans only once per year. Bringing it up on a regular basis will help your office retain the information needed to prepare for an emergency now.
- A tabletop exercise takes more time and planning. Allocate a few hours for the entire meeting. To start you’ll need a planner, facilitator, participants, note-takers and observers.
ServiceMaster Advantage in Houston, Texas is your local disaster restoration expert. Contact us if you experience a fire or smoke damage. Business and homeowners rely on us every day for our full array of services. Our team will repair your property in a timely manner, keep you informed the whole way through and ensure the job is done right.
Photo by: istockphoto.com/Erin Donalson