Wildfire Preparation and Mitigation
Wildfires are unplanned events that burn in forest, grassland, prairie, or other natural areas. Lightning can trigger burns, but they are frequently initiated by humans through intentional or unintentional means. Wildfire is a serious concern for self-storage businesses across the country and one of the costliest causes of loss for property owners and insurance carriers. In California alone, insured property losses from wildfire were estimated at $85 billion in 2017, $400 billion in 2018 (the year of the devastating Camp Fire), and over $25 billion in 2019.
In addition to the cost of repairs and loss of business income while spaces are unavailable to rent, the toll a fire can take on your operation can be devastating. The sight of a damaged, burned-out building can make it difficult to rent units to prospective customers, and customer retention could be impacted negatively.
It is critical for self-storage property owners to adopt a mindset of pre-wildfire mitigation. In other words, take steps now to reduce potential property damage and other insurance claims in the event of a wildfire. The Department of Homeland Security's website www.Ready.gov, recommends the following steps to prepare for wildfires.
• Sign up for your community's warning system and monitor alerts from the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.
• Know your community's evacuation plan
Make a Plan
• Identify multiple evacuation routes and drive them to familiarize yourself with roads and landmarks.
• Create a plan for evacuating employees and customers on the premises.
• Gather emergency supplies including N95 respirator masks.
• Store important documents in a secure, fireproof place and create digital backup copies.
Create and Maintain a Defensible Space
• Choose fire-resistant materials for construction, renovation, repairs, and outdoor furnishings such as benches, tables, and signs or decorations.
• Set up a water defense using sprinklers and hoses that can reach all areas of the property.
• Thin shrubs and trees to create space and ensure that the crowns do not overlap.
• Remove low tree branches to separate branches overhead from grass and shrubs.
• Eliminate all leaves, debris, and flammable material within 30 feet of buildings and remove combustible debris from roofs and gutters.
• Perform regular inspections and ongoing maintenance to maintain this defensible space.
In addition to these preparation steps, be sure to schedule a coverage review with your independent insurance agent to discuss coverages, limits, deductibles, and exposures.