4 steps to ensuring your business is ready this bushfire season
Published 10 October 2019
The spring of 2019 has ushered in a high risk bushfire season over most of Australia. If your business operates near bushland or trees your premises and staff are at risk from a bushfire outbreak. The time to prepare is right now and these are the critical steps to take to protect your staff, your premises and being ready for evauation if necessary.
1. Protect your staff
Have a clear policy outlining what the procedure is in case of fire and run regular training for staff members. Make allowance for the fact that power may go down and mobile phones may not work.
Keep a torch, portable radio, portable fire extinguishers, fire blankets, first aid kit and spare batteries handy, and ensure all staff know their location and how to use them.
All staff should also be aware of evacuation routes and the assembly point.
Appoint someone to be in charge of evacuating staff and customers, and someone else to be responsible for removing critical documentation*.
Make sure there is no flammable material close to your building(s). This includes vegetation such as grass, trees or leaf matter (including in roof gutters), fuel supplies, chemicals, flammable liquids or paint.
Fit wire screens to doors, windows and vents to protect against sparks and burning debris entering the building. Ensure your smoke alarms are working.
Keep a ladder that reaches the roof onsite, along with tools such as a spade, rake, axe or saw in a secure location your staff can access.
Keep heavy-duty hoses that reach all parts of your premises attached to external taps.
3. Plan for survival
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issues graded bushfire warnings that start at the advisement level and escalate through to extreme danger emergency warnings accompanied by a siren alert (SEWS). These are communicated by ABC radio and local emergency services.
Let your location and common sense dictate when you choose to evacuate your premises. If you feel you and your staff are in danger, leave. If you have been advised to remain in the building, keep doors and windows closed and any vents sealed with wet rags. Stay clear of the windows and have hoses and containers of water at the ready.
*Have copies of your most critical documentation packed ready to go in a waterproof container. Similarly, back up your essential business information to an external storage device.
Keep your insurance cover up to date
Review your insurance now, and make sure you understand what exclusions apply. Are outbuildings and vehicles included? Can you afford for your business to stop revenue earning operations during a crisis or rebuild?
Are you covered for total replacement if your premises burn to the ground? Consider getting a quote from a reputable builder for rebuilding your business premises at today’s rates.
It’s a good idea to make an inventory of assets, room by room, in advance. After the event, take photographs and make lists of damaged items you need to claim on.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the fire and obtain advice before authorising major repairs.
To the extent that any material in this document may be considered advice, it does not take into account your objectives, needs or financial situation. You should consider whether the advice is appropriate for you and review any relevant Product Disclosure Statement and policy wording before taking out an insurance policy.