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, Author: Craig Fuher

Wildfire Preparation For Businesses

Wildfire Preparation For Businesses Disclaimer: Wildfire preparedness information in this article is observational in nature. It is not intended to be a substitute for general safety recommendations from your local first responders. Information is not intended to serve as legal advice, e.g., for adhering to workplace compliance requirements around safety. Please consult appropriate authorities and use the information in this article at your own risk. 

Wildfires Happen

Wildfires are unfortunately a frequent occurrence in many areas. In the Western U.S. And the problem only seems to be growing.

“For much of the U.S. West, projections show that an average annual 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature may increase the area burned in a typical year by as much as 600 percent,” notes the Washington State Department of Ecology.

But that doesn’t mean businesses owners have to just sit back and hope for the best. Instead, there are several ways to go about wildfire preparation for businesses. Insurance agents can help their clients in this regard. Part of wildfire preparation for businesses means assessing different types of risks. For one, a business likely wants to know if it’s in a particular area that’s more prone to wildfires. Even within the same city or town there can be different factors that influence risk.

“The three primary factors considered in analyzing wildfire risk are distribution of vegetative fuel, steepness of slope and degree of access for firefighting equipment,” notes the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Types of Risk

Businesses can also have varying degrees of risk based on factors like the value of their physical property and ability to operate remotely. Wildfire preparation for businesses can involve steps like obtaining adequate insurance and knowing what inventory they have in case they need to file a claim. 

Still, wildfire preparation for businesses can be complex. Insurance agents can help prove their value and improve client retention by lending a hand in this area. First, insurance agents help match small businesses with the right insurance coverage to protect against wildfires. Then they also may be able to share best practices in areas like risk management. Sharing their experience working with multiple businesses.

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Consider How Wildfires Could Affect Businesses

One of the top ways insurance agents can help with wildfire preparation for businesses is to go over various risks with clients. When considering the impact of wildfires, businesses might look at areas like:

Property Damage

If a wildfire occurs, office buildings, factories, retail stores or other types of physical property could be at risk. Plus, the property within these locations, or any work property held within a small business owner’s home (e.g., computers), could also get damaged or destroyed. Wildfire preparation for businesses should consider what the cost might be if a wildfire occurs. Looking at worst-case scenarios as well as perhaps comparing how similar businesses have been affected in the past.

Business Interruption

In addition to property damage, wildfires can also affect how businesses operate. A company might not be able to access its properties like offices or warehouses. That could limit its ability to function and lead to lost revenue. Even businesses that operate remotely aren’t necessarily without risk. A small consulting firm that has limited physical property and can work anywhere with an internet connection. But wildfires can affect customers and business partners. That consultant might be spared the worst of a wildfire. However they should consider the risk of clients having to pause work due to the effects of a wildfire.  

Plan Ahead

After helping clients consider the risks of wildfires, insurance agents can help clients plan ahead in case a fire does occur. Doing so can include the following:

Consider Insurance Coverage

Insurance agents can walk clients through their current insurance coverage to determine what would be covered in the event of a wildfire. Perhaps this review would lead to identifying gaps that can lead to larger renewals.

For example, if a business owner does not have any business interruption protection or if their policy limits for property insurance don’t adequately meet the risk of property damage, they may want to add or expand policies. A small business owner may be happy with their current insurance coverage. It can still be helpful to review their policies so that they can start thinking about what they might need to adjust later on. Like if the business expands from one to two locations.

Know How to File Claims

So you’ve reviewed current insurance coverage to see if a business is adequately protected financially. Next, insurance agents can help businesses plan ahead by making sure they know how to file claims. If a wildfire does occur, businesses want to be able to efficiently make a claim and start to get back on their feet. So, knowing what to do ahead of time can speed up the process. Rather than trying to figure things out when so many people are trying to contact insurers following a wildfire. 

Safeguard Your Property

Insurance agents can’t necessarily make safety recommendations the way qualified professionals can. They may still be able to help clients at least think about safeguards and connect them with relevant resources. For example, an insurance agent might be able to provide information about a wildfire protection system. Now clients can get in contact to see if adding things like sprinklers makes sense for their circumstances.

Know What’s at Stake

Planning ahead for wildfires can also mean knowing the value of property and keeping strong records, which could help in the event a business needs to make claims. Insurance agents might be able to advise clients on best practices that they’ve seen other businesses do to prepare, such as by documenting inventory and keeping that information in a separate location that has a lower fire risk. As the III notes, “Keep copies of important papers offsite (for example, in a safe deposit box), so you don’t lose them to fire.”

Similarly, knowing what’s at stake in terms of data can help businesses prepare, such as by keeping backups of information in the cloud or in a separate data center so that a wildfire affecting one property doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the company’s data will be destroyed. If the business can access data remotely after the wildfire, they may be able to continue operating elsewhere, even if their main office gets damaged. 

Prepare on an Ongoing Basis

Similar to disasters like, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc., wildfire preparation for businesses generally need to continue on an ongoing basis, rather than as a one-time activity. That’s because risks can evolve, and information like an inventory of business assets can quickly get out of date.

So, insurance agents can regularly help businesses prepare for wildfires and other disasters, such as by going over risks and ways to proactively plan during annual renewal meetings. Even if clients don’t need to make major changes, at least bringing these types of topics up can help show clients that you’re offering more than just a commoditized insurance policy. Instead, you’re showing up more as a partner to business owners, helping them navigate risks and understand their insurance policies better.

In turn, that can lead to more client trust. This can help with client retention as well as benefits like additional referrals and positive reviews. Altogether, that can go a long way toward helping insurance agents grow their books, all while helping other businesses.