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What in the world do wildfires have to do with business continuity?

A wildfire is an unplanned or unwanted fire in an undeveloped area, so following that definition, it doesn’t seem that such fires would have much impact on a business community. However, with urban expansion on the rise, wild and natural areas are becoming more of the urban landscape, with canyons, parks and greenbelts often landing within the boundaries many cities. This gives rise to a new threat—the wildland-urban interface fire; a fire that begins as a wildfire but goes on to threaten nearby homes and businesses.

Regardless of what you call them, fires of any sort can take a tremendous toll on businesses. The numbers used to calculate the cost of a fire usually include suppression costs, property losses and federal assistance extended to victims. Often not included in these tallies are the costs to businesses when they are closed for hours or days, when productivity lags because employees can’t make it into the office and shipping is delayed because access is compromised.

Is there a way to prepare for something as unpredictable and seemingly unlikely as a wildfire? There are the usual protections for your facility, like testing your sprinkler and alarm systems and maintaining a defensible space around the property. But to really protect your business you should begin by reviewing your business continuity plan and making sure that it covers all the ways a fire could impact operations. If your facility is threatened, do you have a way to reach everyone on staff to provide guidance and determine if they need aid? If your parking lot or access routes are threatened, do you have a way to reach all employees, wherever they are, to alert them to avoid the area?