How to Protect Your Business After a Wildfire

Smoky wildfire at night
On June 9, the Bend wildfire in Oregon marked the start of the 2014 wildfire season. The flames arrived three weeks ahead of schedule, catching residents and businesses off guard.

You might feel you're prepared for a wildfire because you've read about how to prevent wildfires and reduce the risk of your business being destroyed by a fire (especially if your office is located in an area prone to drought).

But do you know how to protect yourself and your employees after a fire? 

Just because a wildfire has been extinguished doesn't necessarily mean that your business is in the clear. To keep your employees and business safe, it's important to be aware of the aftereffects of a wildfire.


Avoid Wildfire Smoke


Following a wildfire, keep an eye on local air quality reports. In 2011, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported that almost 212 million people lived in areas across the U.S. that were affected by wildfire smoke (which can last for about a week after a fire has died down).

It's important to note that the smoke that lingers after a fire is different from other types of fumes, because it carries a mixture of gases and fine particles from plant materials. These particles are dangerous and can cause health problems such as pneumonia.

If the local air quality reports for your area are unsafe, you may need to consider relocating your employees to an alternate fixed-site facility or a mobile unit outside the affected area.


Prepare for Power Outages


Wildfire season also began early for California this year, leaving 5,800 San Diego Gas & Electric customers without electricity for at least 24 hours. If your business were affected by a power outage, could you avoid downtime? By keeping data backed up at an alternate location, you can access business-critical data whenever you need it, regardless of the disaster.

Anticipate Flooding


According to FEMA, wildfires can increase the risk of flooding, because they destroy the vegetation that usually helps absorb water. Flash floods are especially dangerous, so check your area's flood risk and elevation before bad weather arrives. It's also a good idea to purchase flood insurance and inform employees of relocation plans in the event that your business is damaged.

Wildfires, as with any disaster, aren't always preventable. The key to surviving them is to be prepared. For more safety tips and details about wildfires, visit ready.gov/wildfires.