It seems as if we just published a series on how to protect people and property in the event of a wildfire, but wildfire season is here already and fires have been spreading at a pace that far outdoes the rate from last year. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “more than 1,000 wildfires have been sparked in a one-week period in July — that’s more than three times the average of 250 or 300 that begin each week at this point in the season.”
Since they’re spreading faster, it means that tens of thousands of more acres have burned across the state this year than at this point last year, which was one of the most destructive fire seasons in state history. Every summer seems to set new record high temperatures throughout California causing the already dry brush and grass to become drier and cause the fires to explosively spread.
Employer Responsibilities Regarding Wildfires
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) states that “each employer is responsible for the safety and health of its workers and for providing a safe and healthful workplace for its workers.”
More specifically, employers are required to protect workers from “anticipated hazards.” Since we live in the state of California, we can consider seasonal wildfires to be anticipated and therefore something we can and should plan and prepare for.
How Employers Can Prepare For Wildfires
An evacuation plan during a wildfire is imperative as it will help avoid confusion and prevent injuries. If your workplace doesn’t have an evacuation plan in place, we’ve narrowed it down to three steps:
- Determine evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
- Implement a clear chain of command and designation of the person authorized to order an evacuation
- Create procedures to account for all employees after an emergency evacuation
After the evac map is in place, you may also want to consider the need for escape hoods or gas masks. It doesn’t stop at just planning. Part of a complete evacuation map is planning regular trainings on emergency procedures to keep them fresh in employee’s minds.
For more information on how to prepare, survive during, and stay safe after, check out this FEMA resource. Below are several other topics business owners and employers should know about fire: