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February 24, 2017 Previous day Next day

Should wildfire safety advocates be excited that we made the short list of an insurance publication's advice to businesses on top risks to watch in 2017? I think so, and here's why: for decades, the problem of structures burning down during wildfires simply has not been on insurers' list of things to worry about. Year after year, hail and wind top lists in the US and globally as catastrophic losses in terms of claims payout from property insurers. Those of us in the wildfire biz know that home destruction from wildfire is a growing problem and will continue due to past development practices, lack of application of design and construction standards, and climate and environmental conditions that make large, intense wildfires a relatively common occurrence. For business owners, a major, destructive wildfire threatens more than just buildings - the domino effect of evacuations, home destruction, closed roads and more can hamper the ability for employees to get to work and for customers to do business as usual. 


According to an article aimed at businesses by Duncan Ellis in Property Casualty 360, an e-publication serving the insurance industry, those in charge of buying property insurance to cover their exposures should be concerned about emerging risks, topped by the threat of wildfire. The feature includes an image of destruction from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where indeed businesses including resorts and rental properties were destroyed, damaged or compromised. The article included the infographic below and provides some sensible tips for business owners and employees to ensure safety and business continuity.


Watching the flood and potential dam breach situation unfold in California over the past two months has been breathtaking, scary and frankly, ironic. Less than four months ago, I met California Office of Emergency Services director Mark Ghilarducci at a meeting in Santiago, Chile, where he presented on the five-year-and-counting severe drought conditions in California and the significant impacts on wildfire conditions and potential. Just six weeks after our November trip, Mark was posting warnings and updates in his Twitter feed about the pending weather system that hit parts of California with flooding rains as early as Christmas, and seems to have barely let up. 


Governor Brown declared a state of emergency for more than 40 counties on January 23. However, one of the most harrowing situations unfolded a few weeks later as it became apparent that the emergency spillway on the Oroville Dam was failing. A reported 200,00 residents in areas below the dam, including Chico and Yuba, were forced to evacuate. Many of the communities in the area both downstream and upstream of the dam are also prone to wildfire and many are involved in Firewise and their local Fire Safe Councils. Faith Berry in our Wildfire Division heard from Brenda Rightmyer, director of the Yankee Hill Fire Safe Council, with whom she had worked closely in the years when she was an NFPA Firewise Advisor in California. We were happy that Brenda and her neighbors in the Concow/Yankee Hill community were safe in their upstream location, and very excited to hear that their wildfire preparedness work was paying off in helping their families, friends, and folks in harm's way to be safe from the flooding. 


Brenda wrote to us, "With the Oroville Dam situation, Yankee Hill Fire Safe Council was sharing copies of the community evacuation plan that has a wealth of information in it, not just for wildland fire preparation and evacuation. The Concow/Yankee Hill community evacuation plan...[includes] information like creating a household safety plan and preparing a "go bag". This is universal information for anyone needing to prepare and leave on a moment's notice. We were passing along this information to family and friends of our community to them. Also, on our Facebook page, we promoted the Butte County Sheriff's 'Stay Informed' program for mass notifications."


This active and engaged community jumped into action to help people with sound and practical information that may even have saved some lives and prevented some injuries. We are so proud to share their story, and hope you'll take a look at their evacuation guide, attached. Check out for great ideas for preparedness projects and activities you can do with your neighbors on May 6 or any time. 


Photos courtesy Brenda Rightmyer, Yankee Hill Fire Safe Council director


Don’t delay, apply today! Friday, March 3 is the deadline to apply for a $500 project award for wildfire risk reduction.


NFPA and State Farm Insurance are offering these small grants to 150 U.S. communities, fire departments, youth groups, church groups and others to support Wildfire Community Preparedness Day projects on May 6.


Submit your application before midnight Eastern Time, Friday, March 3 for a chance to win this award for your community. Visit to apply and for free resources to help you with the application process including a free webinar.

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