ALERT! Tips For Saving Your Business in Wildfires

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As reported by numerous news outlets, a new wildfire closed parts of Interstate 405 Wednesday morning near Los Angeles’ Bel-Air area and prompted evacuations — one in a series of blazes that have scorched more than 83,000 acres, burned scores of buildings and forced tens of thousands of people to flee over three days.

Police also shut down I-405 — one of the nation’s busiest freeways — in both directions for nine miles after flames swept down the foothills toward the highway, near Sepulveda Pass and the Getty Center arts complex, as stunned motorists drove by before dawn.

Road closures continue to impact Highway 150 and 33, as well as many other city and county roads.  

Per California Highway Patrol:

Hard Closure- SR-150 from Santa Paula to Ojai

Hard Closure – Foothill Road at Olive/Cummings/Wells/Briggs (Santa Paula/Ventura area)

Nye Road coming from Highway 33

The Thomas Fire alone has affected thousands of employees and hundreds of businesses, and spread across 65,000 acres by Wednesday morning, December 6. The blaze destroyed hundreds of homes, threatened 12,000 structures and forced 27,000 people to evacuate.

UCLA, a few miles south of the fire, said it believed its campus was safe but canceled afternoon and evening classes, citing difficult traffic conditions. It also canceled its men’s basketball home game.

Thomas Wildfire

According to National Interagency Fire Center, thirty five new large fires were reported this week, most of them in the Southern Area. Oklahoma reported 10 new large fires and Arkansas and Kentucky both reported seven new ones. Firefighters were able to contain 24 large fires. YTD, there have been 56,186 fires affecting 9,185,901 acres.

If you find you must evacuate your business, prior to evacuation:

  • Clear as much debris and combustible material as possible away from accumulating on roofs, gutters and around the structure
  • Enclose the bottom of elevated decks, and do not storing combustible materials below decking
  • Cover attic and crawl space vents with metal mesh screens to reduce entry points for wind-driven embers (or replace with ember resistant roof vents)
  • Create a defensible space up to 100 feet from the structures that serve as a layer of protection between the business and wildfire

Know your evacuation routes; plan your transportation and a place to stay. To ensure you will be able to act quickly should you need to evacuate, you need to plan ahead and help train employees to think ahead. You also must prepare for employees who are unable to get to the workplace, or to return to the workplace for an extended period of time after the event is over.

– Know your community’s local evacuation plan and identify several escape routes for your location in case roads are blocked; include plans to evacuate people with disabilities and others with access or functional needs, as well as pets, service animals, and livestock.

– If you will evacuate by car, keep your car fueled and in good condition. Keep emergency supplies and a change of clothes in your car.

– If you will need to share transportation, make arrangements now. If you will need to use public transportation, including para-transit, contact your local government emergency management agency to ask how an evacuation will work, how you will get current information during an evacuation, the location of staging areas, and other information.

– If you need to relocate for an extended period of time, identify a place away from home where you could go if you had to leave. Consider family or friends who live outside of the local area.

– If you expect to go to a shelter after evacuating you can text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area.

– If you have pets and plan to go to a shelter, call to inquire whether it can accommodate pets. Shelters will accept service animals.

Work closely with your property management company, if one is involved, to know the basics of protecting your business.

• If your business is located in or near forest or dense vegetation, follow the Zone guidelines to help keep your property safer from wildfires:

Zone 1 is considered any space that is 30 feet outside of the business structure, Zone 2 is any space 30-100 feet outside the business structure and Zone 3 is 100- 200 feet outside of the structure.

• Zone 1 is the zone that business owners should keep neat and clean to avoid “assisting” a wildfire. Keep lawns trimmed, remove any dead plants or vegetation (especially under or around structures that are attached to the business). If your business deals with flammables, they should not be stored in this zone. Keep the roof of the business clean and if there are gutters they should be kept clean as well.

• Zone 2 is the zone where business owners should pay close attention to the spacing and placement of vegetation and trees. There should be spacing of 20 feet between trees in this zone and pruned 6 to 10 feet above the ground. Installing “fuel breaks” should be considered in this zone to prevent a wildfire coming in contact with your business structure.

• Zone 3 is the furthest of the three zones, but should still be kept tidy to prevent the spread of a wildfire. Thinning of small vegetation between trees should be done and tree canopies should not touch in order to prevent the fire traveling from tree to tree.

• Have plenty of fire extinguishers on location and get them inspected regularly.

• Have an evacuation plan in place to safely exit the building.

• Practice your evacuation plan so each employee will know how to exit the building calmly and safely.

• Make sure that your business is clearly marked to assist emergency vehicles finding it easily.

• Follow local smoke detector and sprinkler system ordinances.

• Have flashlights and extra batteries available in case your business loses electricity.

• Make sure that your business structure is built with fire-resistant materials, especially the roof.

• Talk to other businesses in your area to see what they have done to prepare for wildfires.

• Back up important documents that could be destroyed.

If you are a business owner, check your insurance coverage and keep detailed records of business activity that is negatively affected due to the wildfire event. Keep a list of extra expenses during the interruption. Prepare records to show the income from the business both before and after the loss.

When Employees Cannot Get to Work

Alternate Work Options

Alternative work-sites must be dynamic and established prior to an event. A dynamic recovery site provides employees multiple locations to work from; for example, a Regus location or a national hotel chain. The recovery site(s) should be located far enough away to provide safety from the crisis event.

Ensure the recovery worksites are equipped with a secure internet connection. Train your employees to avoid using open internet connections – even if working from home – to mitigate cyber breach exposure.

 Is Remote Working Feasible?

  • Would your organization be able to continue its core operations remotely (home)?
    • If so, are there any special requirements?
  • What is the impact from a loss of utilities and communications capabilities for an extended period of time?
  • Have solutions been tested?
  • Keep in mind issues that may arise including: employees unable to return home and loss of structure or power.

What are your organizations’ disaster checklists? Download a Firestorm brief on Workplace Recovery to view checklist examples that will provide an idea of factors to consider when creating a business disaster recovery plan.

Additional resources:

US Wildfire Activity Web Map – ArcGISCa Fire Maps

Ready Ventura County

RSS FEED LINKS

Creek Fire (Los Angeles County) Started 12/05/2017, updated 12/06/2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 3:49 PM

Thomas Fire (Ventura County) Started 12/04/2017, updated 12/06/2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 2:46 PM

The fire continues to burn actively with extreme rates of spread and long range spotting when pushed by winds. The fire is established on the north and east side of Hwy 150 and is also burning on the west side of Hwy 30. The fire has pushed northwest of Ventura and has reached the Hwy 101. Firefighters continue to work aggressively to protect life and property while working on control efforts around the fire perimeter.

SCHOOL CLOSURES:

Fillmore Unified School District, Hueneme Elementary School District, Mesa Union Elementary School District, Moorpark Unified School District, Mupu Elementary School District, Ocean View School District, Ojai Unified School District, Oxnard Elementary School District, Oxnard Union High School District, Pleasant Valley School District, Rio Elementary School District, Saint Anthony’s School, Santa Clara Elementary School District (Santa Paula), Santa Paula Unified School District, Simi Valley Unified School District, University Preparation Charter School, VCOE Career Education Center Sites, VCOE-Operated School Sites and Classrooms, Ventura Unified School District, Moorpark College, Oxnard College, Ventura College, Thomas Aquinas College

Oak Fire (San Bernardino County) Started 11/29/2017, updated 12/06/2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 2:24 PM

Riverdale Fire (Riverside County) Started 12/04/2017, updated 12/06/2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 10:47 AM

Meyers Fire (San Bernardino County) Started 12/05/2017, updated 12/06/2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 10:47 AM

Skirball Fire (Los Angeles County) Started 12/06/2017, updated 12/06/2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 10:40 AM

Rye Fire (Los Angeles County) Started 12/05/2017, updated 12/06/2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 10:25 AM

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