Wildfires in British Columbia, the US capital – and, indeed, around the world – have turned a red-hot spotlight on the risks of fire and smoke damage for commercial and residential properties. And while there’s much that property owners/managers can do to address fire damage after the fact, there are key preventive measures they can take to protect their tenants and assets.
Surely, says Erik Hecht, Director of Operations, B.C, for FirstOnSite Restoration, “As weather becomes more unpredictable and extreme, it’s more important than ever to be ready for an emergency.”
Here’s a few tips to help prepare:
- Create space: Fire needs fuel to burn. Clear highly-combustible materials (e.g., branches, twigs, garbage, debris, etc.) within 10 metres of your property to remove materials that can help the flames spread.
- Fire-proof your roof: Keep your roofing free from debris and consider applying a metal mesh screen to prevent additional debris from piling up. Wood shingles are very flammable, so also consider replacing your cover with non-flammable roofing materials such as asphalt, metal, slate, or tile.
- Keep embers at bay. Sparks can enter a building through openings of any size. Prevent fire from getting in by repairing loose shingles, applying wire mesh to screening vents, and using soffits made with fire-resistant materials to protect eaves. If your building allows pets, consider closing pet doors during wildfire seasons.
- Maintain your landscape: Coniferous trees are extremely flammable (as opposed to deciduous trees, which are naturally fire-resistant). Remove any coniferous tree within 10 metres of your property and, beyond that, space them within at least three metres of each other. Additionally, prune the lower branches from all your trees regularly and ensure the lawn is regularly mowed and watered (water restrictions notwithstanding).
- Assign a “fire-resistant zone”. This could be a cleared part of the property (far away from the fire), an adjacent property, or a large paved area that is free of vegetation. This spot should be well known to property staff and tenants as a place to meet when disaster strikes and regular routes are not viable.
- Create a partner network: If a nearby property ignites, your property is under threat (and vice-versa). Therefore, it is important to consider all neighbouring properties in your disaster planning and include them, emergency responders, and restoration partners in your disaster response planning. “If you have taken all the planning and preventative steps you can, but your neighbour hasn’t, you both remain at risk,” says
Having a plan is paramount to disaster prevention. That means having both an evacuation plan with pre-planned evacuation routes, emergency meeting locations, and key contacts; and a business continuity plan that will detail the steps (and people) required to get your operation back up and running.
Adds Hecht: “Knowing the risk profile of your commercial property is critical for warding off damage and choosing the right insurance products. The average midsize company loses $70,000 per hour for every hour that they’re not in operation”.
FirstOnSite Restoration is a leading Canadian-based disaster restoration company providing remediation, restoration, and reconstruction services nationwide, as well as for the US large loss and commercial market. For more information, visit www.firstonsite.ca.