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Protecting Your Operations and People from Wildfires

More than a dozen wildfires have burned through half a million acres of land in California, killing several people and forcing tens of thousands more out of their homes, according to news reports. Two fires, the Carr and Mendocino Complex, now rank among the most destructive blazes in the state’s history. Several other fires remain only partially contained as of August 6. Beyond California, recent wildfires have also caused substantial damage from the Rockies to the Pacific Northwest into Canada.

Amid this destruction, businesses need to protect their people and themselves from physical and financial harm. If you are located in areas affected by wildfires or reliant on businesses located there, here’s how you can prepare and remain resilient.

Business Continuity

Rebuilding and resuming operations in damaged areas may take time, and related services may be in high demand. So advance planning can make a big difference. Your organization should already have a business continuity plan, which you should immediately activate. Specifically, you should monitor news media and government alerts and ensure that employees stay away from offices, stores, or other threatened locations. And you should adjust your emergency response strategies based on local authorities’ safety warnings and clearances.

Employee Safety

You should account for all employees as soon as possible. This means having up-to-date employee contact information and providing ways for them to report their status until the crisis passes. You should also notify employees of time-off-work policies and expected return-to-work timetables. Be ready to provide humanitarian assistance, including helping employees manage insurance and FEMA claims. And make sure to warn employees about potential dangers, including trees, utility poles, and other tall objects that wildfires may render unstable.

Claims Preparation and Management

As you begin the recovery process, it’s vital to monitor your resources and cash flow. Early reporting of actual or potential property, business interruption, or loss of attraction issues to your broker and insurer can help establish the potential for advance payments, which can be used to cover operational costs, payroll, and rebuilding expenses.

Without putting employees in harm’s way, document physical damage before beginning cleanup efforts. Damaged items should also be kept unless they pose a health hazard.

In the event of a business interruption loss, provide your insurer with specific information regarding:

·         Civil authority orders mandating evacuation of your premises.

·         Road closures preventing or prohibiting access to your premises.

·         Service interruptions, including specific reasons for loss of service.

Support your claim with media reports, copies of relevant records, maps, and photos and video captured from a distance by drone or satellite. Track all revenue losses and extra expenses associated with the wildfires. For contingent time element claims, immediately document any supplier or customer contingent issues, including supply chain impacts.

While you can’t control the path of wildfires or the damage that they may cause, you can take these proactive steps to better protect your employees, operations, and finances.