Business owners manage a whole host of risks, bushfires are just one. Depending on where you live the main fire season can vary from Winter & Spring for the northern Australian states and territories to Summer for the southern states and territories. It’s important to prepare and part of the preparation is to check your insurance is adequate.
Insurance is a way to manage the financial risk of loss or damage to your stock and buildings, as well loss of business, if unable to trade.
The 2019 – 2020 fire season was one of the deadliest in living memory, also destroying over 3,000 homes, many businesses and burnt through 17 million hectares in southern and eastern Australia.
Hopefully, you won’t experience the devastating effects of a bushfire firsthand, but if your business is located in a bushfire prone area, it’s essential that you are prepared and have a plan. So, here’s three tips to help you prepare and protect your business during bushfire season.
Prepare, Plan & Stay Safe
Bush fires can start from several causes, including natural, accidental or deliberate. Weather factors that increase the risk of bush fires include: High temperatures; Low humidity; Little recent rain; Abundant dry vegetation; Strong winds & Thunderstorms.
You can obtain advice from your local fire authority and there’s lots of free information for each State or Territory in the Australian Disaster resilience Agency – Knowledge Hub.
Free Emergency plans, including Equipment Action & Preparation checklists are available at https://www.myfireplan.com.au/
A business emergency plan should include a decision of whether to stay and defend or leave, whether you’re a farmer, manufacturer, tourist operator or retailer. If staying to defend, ensure your emergency plan includes:
- Apps, TV & Radio – Monitoring local radio or download Emergency Service apps that cover your area, such as the VicEmergency app or the NSW Rural Fire Service app.
- Emergency Plan – Prepare a fire emergency plan that includes key people contact info and their roles, including insurance details and adviser information;
- Rehearsal – Rehearse responses to fires and agreed evacuation procedures and know where your Neighbourhood Safer Place is located;
- First-aid – Pre-packing an emergency kit that includes protective gear for all persons, a portable radio, torch, spare batteries, first aid kit;
- Equipment – Have emergency equipment on standby to save lives and property (e.g. fire hoses, extinguishers) also maintain and refill fuel before the start of each season. Its essential staff are trained on how to use the equipment;
- Structures and Vegetation – Clear grass and trees and shrubs from close by buildings, as well as removing items that can burn from the yard, seal gaps where embers can enter roof or wall structure;
- Power – Isolate gas and electrical power supplies when a decision has been made to evacuate;
- Contingency Planning – Bushfires are unpredictable and plans can fail. A contingency plan that identifies your alternate options may save lives, as well as your business, if caught in a fire. Alternative plans, routes, storage for stock and equipment. It might also be worthwhile talking with other business owners in the area, to co-ordinate a response.
Sometimes, despite doing all you can to minimise your risks, the worst still happens. Buildings, stock and equipment are lost or powerlines are brought down. That’s why insurance is important to manage the financial risk of fire. Your insurance specialist can assist.
Review your insurance cover
Before the start of the bushfire season in your area, it’s important to review your insurance cover to make sure that you have the right policy cover and update your sums insured. This will ensure that you’re spending the right amount on insurance and give you peace of mind.
Business Interruption or Loss of Profits insurance will also pay your fixed overheads, profits, and wages, if the business cannot operate for a period of time following a fire.
Business Interruption Insurance can provide monthly payments until your business is up and trading again.
To make sure that your business is adequately insured for the damage that bushfires can do, talk to an insurance professional today.