Protecting against wildfires

A good dose of caution and prevention can prevent wildfires

It is sad to acknowledge the truth about wildfires: About 90 percent are started from human causes. The most common human causes include failing to extinguish campfires and cigarettes properly, burning debris and intentional arson. So far in 2017, wildfires have burned 2.6 million more square acres of land than the annual average for the previous 10 years.

But there are specific ways to prevent wildfires from starting on camp property, and prepare for the worst if threatened by a wildfire in the area.

How to help prevent wildfires around buildings and grounds

The U.S. Forest Service has one of the most successful public service campaigns in Smokey the Bear. The slogan “Only you can prevent forest fires” rings just as true today as when it was coined in 1944. Some of Smokey’s prevention tips include:

  1. Practice campfire safety. Choose a cleared burn spot and adhere to local burn ordinances and restrictions. Assign a designated fire watcher who keeps the fire under control, and is responsible for ensuring the fire is completely out.
  2. Be responsible while maintaining grounds. Mowers and power equipment can spark fires—use spark arresters on gas-powered equipment. Only mow lawn areas, not weeds or dry grass, and keep a shovel and extinguisher handy while working.
  3. Check vehicles for hazards. When hot exhaust pipes of ATVs, golf carts and other vehicles come in contact with dry tinder, fires can start. Be mindful of metal parts and trailer chains so they don’t drag—even that spark can ignite a blaze.

Prep now, to help stop wildfire damage later

Prevention is often the key to the best-case outcome in a wildfire. With these handy tips, it’s simple to prepare your buildings and grounds before you are threatened by a wildfire.

  1. Assess your risks. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) created wildfire guides based on U.S. geographic region. Take the time to download the guide for your region and decide what preparation is most important for your area.
  2. Safeguard your buildings. Regular maintenance of clearing roof and gutter debris, as well as using fire-resistant building materials whenever possible will decrease the risk of property damage.
  3. Create zones of defensible space. IBHS encourages camps to maintain clear zones around each building. Vegetation such as tall grass, low-hanging branches and brush cause a ripple effect to spread wildfire. Download their defensible space guide to help prepare your space.

Disaster planning for a wildfire

If the worst happens and your camp or conference center is threatened by wildfire, it is the absolute top priority to get every person out of harm’s way. Here are some additional considerations to prepare beforehand:

  1. Train all staff. Inform all workers of your emergency evacuation plans so everyone is ready to act if necessary.
  2. Stay alert to the situation. Listen for warnings and alerts from the National Weather Service and local officials. Know what each alert means and when it’s critical to take action.
  3. Communicate. It’s imperative that communication plans are in place to contact campers, family members and local authorities in an emergency situation.
  4. Evacuate the location. The ideal evacuation plan will include routes, transportation options and destinations. A backup route is important in the event that the primary choice is impassable.  

Learn more emergency response tips from the Red Cross.

If disaster does strike your facilities, contact your insurance carrier to discuss the situation. Only return to your camp after receiving specific permission from local authorities. For more information, read our article about recovering after a disaster.

For additional questions, call Church Mutual Insurance Company’s Risk Control Central at (800) 554-2642, ext. 5213, or email riskconsulting@churchmutual.com.

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Church Mutual Insurance Company
P.O. Box 357 | 3000 Schuster Lane | Merrill, WI 54452-0357
Telephone (800) 554-2642 or (715) 536-5577

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