In certain areas of the U.S., wildfires occur frequently. In states like Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Texas and California, wildfires start up as a result of high temperatures and drought.
Recently in California, Governor Jerry Brown alluded to the possibility that California wildfires are becoming an annual occurrence resulting from climate change. As a result, this Governor, like others, issued a wildfire state of emergency to protect residents.
Wildfires can occur in any state. They are not limited to heavily forested areas. In Sweet Grass, Montana, the topography is mainly open prairie. The types of wildfires that occur there are usually at ground level and affect low lying brush. In Idaho, a more heavily forested area, wildfires occur at tree lines or centrally, depending on the severity of drought.
The U.S. Forest Service indicates that wildfires occur in areas where there is combustible vegetation. It is also believed wildfires happen due to ecological effects of flora and fauna and drought conditions that combine with high temperatures to cause combustion.
Plan Ahead for Wildfires
The most important thing for those living in areas frequently affected by wildfires is to have a well-designed plan of action for the protection and safety of people, animals, and the environment.
There are several steps to take to plan and prepare for wildfires. These include:
- Identify risks in a particular location, including range of fly ash and burning embers carried by wind and proximity to residences and businesses.
- Observe surrounding environment to note changes in weather patterns
- Be mindful of public announcements of potential for wildfires in affected zones.
- Be aware of safe locations for contingency emergency evacuations, including distance and evacuation time.
- Check with local municipality regarding emergency alerts on TV, radio or via email.
- Keep a checklist of personal needs such as food, clothing, prescription medications and first aid supplies.
First Aid Supplies
The Red Cross suggests survival and emergency kits include a three day supply of water, non-perishable foods that are easy to prepare, a flashlight, battery operated radio and extra batteries, extra cash, personal hygiene supplies, pet supplies and where applicable, games and books for children.
Depending on the proximity and availability of the evacuation emergency location, it is also a good idea to bring along blankets and towels.
Understanding Workforce Compliance and Wildfire Emergency Planning
The U.S. EPA mandates vigilance of air quality in areas where wildfires are most likely to occur. This is due to the effect of wildfire smoke inhalation that cause lung illnesses and affect those with compromised immune systems. There is also the potential for illness from damaged debris remaining after wildfires.
The Business of Keeping Employees Safe
For business owners and employers, keeping employees safe from dangers of wildfires also requires planning and preparation. For example, there should be quarterly fire drills and informative programs to help employees understand the importance of uniformity and quick response should they be exposed to an unexpected wildfire.
If necessary, employers should provide Workforce Compliance Online training and instruction with bi-annual refresher courses. For instance, OSHA provides details for response and recovery from wildfires that pertain to cleanup operations and also worker safety during cleanup. This information is available online and provides several resources for guidance for wildfire planning and preparation
Why Workforce Compliance Training is Important
Employers need to keep up-to-date emergency contact information accessible to employees. This should include local fire, police and federal and state emergency contacts.
To cover all bases with contact information, be certain there is a contingency plan for contact, should there be building or structural damage to the workplace and communication wiring is lost.
Invest in Safety for the Workplace
Every business owner worries about loss and injury due to wildfires near the workplace. While it may not be possible to spare the building, it is possible to protect employees, documents and other proprietary data and equipment. You also don’t want to have an environmental disaster when chemicals at the site combust. Prepare in advance the safe transportation of hazardous chemicals if you can. For the office, consider computer file protection through the use of cloud computing. Add wildfire planning and preparation to company policy manuals distributed to employees at the time of hire.
For employees, every company should provide action plans in the case of emergency. Also important is proper compliance training
to ensure employees are fully knowledgeable about wildfire or other emergency procedures.