JOHNSTON, R.I. USA—As the Western U.S. endures record heat and severe drought often associated with a changing climate, the risk of wildfires to a business’s property and equipment is greater than ever. Now is the time to be vigilant about protecting them before it’s too late.
FM Global, one of the world’s largest commercial property insurers, recommends businesses prioritize five actions now to reduce the risk of business interruption and loss from wildfire:
1. Clear Vegetation
Remove vegetation close to buildings, including lower and overhanging branches, shrubs and fallen limbs beneath trees. Even lawn mowing helps. Check gutters and vents for pine needles, dust, lint, dry mulch and leaves.
2. Remove Vulnerable Outdoor Storage
Stow all unsecured plastics and wood, including trash cans, outdoor furniture and debris. Yard storage can be placed into metal shipping containers. Safely store or relocate ignitable liquids. Also, look for combustibles in unexpected places like crawl spaces.
3. Secure the Building Envelope
Close openings, such as windows, doors, roof vents and skylights. Cover vents with wire mesh to prevent flying embers from entering the building.
4. Prepare for Operation Shutdown
Plan for safe shutdown of operations and prepare for loss of utilities. Keep fire protection equipment in service; it’ll help safeguard the facility should any embers find their way into the building. Prioritize actions to ensure safe cessation of the most hazardous processes, such as those using ignitable liquids or flammable gases. Conduct computer back-ups. It’s not just fire that can damage property; smoke particles can, too. Consider shutting down HVAC systems to help safeguard computer equipment and sensitive occupancies.
5. Protect Business Continuity
For businesses, continuity is a priority. Prioritize risk mitigation in the context of the business’ most important cash flows. Have a plan in place for keeping business running as usual, accounting for the fact that employees may be affected differently by outages depending on where they live. Understand the value of both an emergency response plan (how to react to potential disaster) and a business continuity plan (how to sustain operations amid a potential disruption) prior to an emergency.
“It’s important to assess all of these risks well ahead of an imminent wildfire threat,” said Katherine Klosowski, FM Global’s vice president and manager, natural hazards and structures engineering, “Wildfires move quickly. When the flames are close, it’s often too late.”
Businesses are often lacking climate resilience. In a 2020 survey of the world’s top CEOs and CFOs, commissioned by FM Global, three in four respondents admitted that their companies are not fully prepared for the adverse financial impact of a changing climate, with 76% saying their organizations are somewhat to significantly exposed to climate risk. Wildfires were cited as one of the top three climate-related exposures that “concern their companies the most” and “could most negatively affect their financials.”
To learn more about how to make commercial properties more resilient to wildfire and other climate-related risks, visit FM Global’s natural hazards tool kit.
About FM Global
Established nearly 200 years ago, FM Global is a mutual insurance company whose capital, scientific research capability and engineering expertise are solely dedicated to property risk management and the resilience of its client-owners. These owners, who share the belief that the majority of property loss is preventable, represent many of the world’s largest organizations, including one of every three Fortune 1000 companies. They work with FM Global to better understand the hazards that can impact their business continuity in order to make cost-effective risk management decisions, combining property loss prevention with insurance protection.