College Station Welcomes the Annual Texas Fire Training School

Brayton Fire Field Prop 43 during a fire training session
Watching your company go up in flames is bad, but not having a tested business continuity plan in place is even worse.

Each year in the U.S., firefighters respond to more than a million fires that threaten homes and businesses. And, as we've said before, it's important for you to not only prepare but also to test your disaster recovery plan ahead of time so your employees won't be in the dark about what to do in the event of a fire.

Our headquarters, located in College Station, just so happens to be the home of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), the leading firefighting academy in the state. The firefighters that train at this academy each year know a little something about the importance of testing.

This week the Annual Texas Fire Training School hosted a week-long training course for industrial and municipal firefighters at the largest facility in the world, the Brayton Fire Training Field. During these training sessions, thousands of firefighters learned the importance of safety, adaptability and teamwork and took the opportunity to teach the community techniques on how to extinguish fires.

This school is a prime example of the importance of disaster education. In the same way you want firefighters with prior experience and proper training to show up if your business catches fire, your customers want to do business with a company that has a business continuity plan (that's been tested).

While you can't prevent unexpected business disturbances, you can prepare for them so your business doesn't waste unnecessary time, money and reputational damage.

Not prepared for a fire? Check out our Wildfire Preparedness Checklist to get started.

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.

Tornado Season Isn't Over Yet

Tornado
Nearly 40 percent of tornadoes occur between June and August each year. These tornado-heavy months require you to be prepared for severe thunderstorms and high-velocity winds. Here are some steps you can follow to prepare for, react to and recover from a tornado.

Prepare

  • Make sure your disaster recovery plan includes provisions for tornadoes. Practice this plan with your team periodically to avoid confusion in the event of an actual tornado.
  • Have enough water, nonperishable food and medical supplies to last at least 72 hours. 
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • Low-lying clouds (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train
  • If you see approaching storms or any of the above danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

    React

    • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for important weather updates.
    • Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.
    • If indoors, stay away from windows and glass doors and go to the lowest floor of the building. Seek shelter in a small center room, under a stairwell or in an interior hallway with no windows.

    Recover

    • Account for all employees and address any staff injuries. For the severely injured, contact 911.
    • When conditions are safe, inspect your building for damage. Take pictures for insurance purposes.
    • If you come across any loose or dangling power lines, keep away from them and inform the power company immediately
    • Refer to your detailed disaster recovery assessment to determine the next steps for continuing business operations.

    Check out our Tornado Preparedness Checklist for other items you should gather before a tornado. 

    [INFOGRAPHIC] Extreme Heat Safety this Fourth of July

    The Fourth of July is coming up, and that means fireworks, hot dogs and summertime fun all around. It also means you're likely to spend more time outdoors than usual. If you're not prepared, the heat that goes along with this time of year could prove to be deadly, as it does for up to 1,000 people a year. Check out this infographic from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to see how you can prevent heat-related illnesses and death.

    CDC Infographic

     For more disaster preparedness tips, check out our  "What to Do When" posts.

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