What FMs and PMs Need to Know to Prepare for Wildfires

In recent years, warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt have made California forests more susceptible to severe wildfires. Most commercial buildings are well prepared for more localized emergencies, with a written fire/life safety plan that tells employees what to do and where to go in the event of a fire and provide the locations of the facility’s fire safety systems. But preparing for wildfires is more complex because they can have wide ranging impacts throughout the entire community.

For example, wildfires may have an adverse effect on air quality hundreds or even thousands of miles from the site of the fire. Even if your office is not within the fire zone, Facility Managers and Project Managers may wish to consider monitoring indoor air quality in their facility to make sure that it’s safe to occupy, especially for people with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or heart disease.

What You Can Do to Prepare for and Respond to Wildfire Emergencies

Facility Managers and Project Managers often play a key role in developing an organization’s wildfire responsiveness plan. These plans are most effective when they are developed through preparedness discussions with employees at all levels of the organization. Studies have shown that participating in these presentations and group discussions makes employees 75 percent more likely to make advance preparations for future emergencies both in the office and at home. 

So what should be in your preparedness plan? FEMA’s Prepare Your Organization for a Wildfire Playbook is one resource that helps organizations prepare for specific hazards by communicating with employees through presentations, group discussions and activities, and tabletop exercises.

Some of the key things to prepare for a fire emergency include:

  • Develop an employee notification plan to ensure you will be able to communicate with your company’s staff both during and outside of business operating hours. Test this system every few months to make sure the information is up to date (but let your employees know that it’s only a test).
  • FMs and PMs can help make their community safer by participating in local organizations that support fire mitigation and crisis management such as the Citizen Corps Council, hazard mitigation planning team, or local Community Emergency Management Team (CERT).

Follow these procedures during a fire emergency:

  • Deploy your employee notification plan to make sure everyone is safe.
  • If your office is open, check with employees on their availability for work. They may require flexibility in their work schedules because critical services may be interrupted, including internet service, power, transit service, or schools/day care facilities.
  • If employees need assistance, direct them to FEMA’s website to get in touch with their local emergency management office by typing in their zip code. https://www.fema.gov/locations
  • If employees wish to contribute to fire relief, financial contributions to recognized disaster relief organizations are the fastest, most flexible and most effective method of donating. If they want to be more directly involved, AirBnB’s Open Homes initiative enables the host community to offer their homes for free to people impacted by disasters. https://www.airbnb.org/get-involved/host or people can sign up to be notified of volunteer opportunities on https://www.californiavolunteers.ca.gov/
  • There are also plenty of more informal volunteer opportunities such as checking on a neighbor who may be affected by the unique challenges brought on by a wildfire or offering to pick up groceries or run errands for disabled, immunocompromised, or older adults.

Service By Medallion is keenly interested in the safety of our customers and everyone living in the greater Bay Area. Give us a call at (650) 625-1010 to get a quote or just find out more about our comprehensive commercial cleaning, facility maintenance, and staffing services.

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