CBIZ INNKEEPERS INSURANCE BLOG

Insights and tips on how to protect your inn or bed & breakfast, giving you and your guests peace of mind.

Hayden Ward
/ Categories: BLOG Articles

Is Your Bed and Breakfast Prepared for a Wildfire?

bed and breakfast wildfires

Every year wildfires rage, threatening, damaging, and, far too often destroying homes, hotels and businesses throughout the nation. Nearly 85% of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by humans. Often they are the result of unattended campfires, burning debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson. The remaining wildfires are typically caused by lightning or other weather events. 

Although you may not be able to stop wildfires from occurring in your area, there are measures you can take to reduce the risk of your bed and breakfast being lost to a wildfire. While no property is fireproof, the goal is to prevent your bed and breakfast from being a fuel source for spreading the fire. Planning your landscape, using proper building materials, and having a financial disaster fund are proactive steps in laying the groundwork for the safety and protection of your bed and breakfast property.

Things to consider as you scan your inn for potential fire risks:

Landscaping

Landscaping your property with wildfire safety in mind, not solely curb appeal, can help reduce the spread of wildfires. If your bed and breakfast property is in a high fire risk area, evaluate the perimeter with a fire safety mentality. Conduct research to make sure that your plants are not highly flammable. For example, the lovely palm trees with leaves hanging over your property could ignite and catch your roof on fire. Opt for a safer choice such as less flammable hardwood trees to protect your property and your business.

Keep in mind your property should have three different zones that act as a defense to fires. Zone 1 should be 5ft. from your inn, and is the most important area to keep clear of any brush, trees, and grasses. Zones 2 and 3 are between 30 and 100ft. and can be extended depending on if your property is located on a hill. With these zones, it is crucial to prune as well as keeping the ground clear and the grass short. It is an unfortunate fact that a high percentage of properties ignite after the strongest part of the wildfire has passed due to smoldering leaves, grass, or brush. 

Building Materials

There are many updates and small renovations you can make to your bed and breakfast to help combat the spread of fire. The absolute key, however, is to understand the unique ways fire could attack your building. This helps determine which sides of the property should be fireproofed first.

The following are a few different renovation ideas to help reduce the risk of wildfire damage.

1. Windows: Windows are the weakest link in defending your bed and breakfast property. Heat alone can break and shatter your windows whether or not there are flames close to your inn. A safe alternative to the standard pane window is double glazing your windows with tempered glass on the exterior. Roll down metal fire doors that can be built into the roof overhangs are also strong defenders against heat and fire.

2. Doors: The standard wooden door typically provides 20 minutes of fire protection. For extra safety and allowing additional time, consider replacing your wooden door for one with a metal core.

3. Roofs: According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), roofing materials should be compiled of noncombustible coverings that are Class A rating, such as metal or asphalt. An easy task you can do regularly is clean the gutters and downspouts on your property. This will decrease fuel for the fire.

4. Vents: Ensure that your bathrooms, kitchen, and dryer vents have automatic backdraft dampers and fire rated assemblies. Metal sleeves and hoods need to cover all plastic plumbing vents where they penetrate your roof.

Outdoor Furniture and Décor

Your bed and breakfast receives a lot of outdoor activity during the summer. Not only do you want your outdoor oasis to be the ultimate relaxation zone, you also want it to be safe for your business and guests.

If your property has a fire pit, take precautionary measures to ensure your fire pit does not pose more risk. Check out our partners at CBIZ Vacation Rental blog post Grill and Chill for more fire safety measures.

Last but not least, do not forget about any fabric cushions or umbrellas outside when there is a wildfire risk. Store outdoor décor inside a shed or a garage. Fabric and plastic are highly flammable and could ignite, sparking other items to catch fire.

Water Supply

Though firefighters will be putting out wildfires, it is in your best interest to make sure you have easy and reliable access to a water supply. This could be a pool, pond, water fountain, or even a hose. Any source of water you can locate will help. However, if you are using a hose, make certain it can reach the entire property. Most states will require bed and breakfasts to have a fire sprinkler system.

Financially Ready

Disaster can always strike, so it is wise to prepare your business for the worst case scenario. Create a contingency plan and a financial crisis strategy. Take the time to review your insurance policy and update your coverage.

It is important to help mitigate risks by making digital copies of your bed and breakfast property’s inventory. Don’t forget to save the receipts for major purchases or updates to your property. Ensure important documents, such as mortgage and insurance information, are stored electronically as well as in a fire safe lock box. Take the time to video or photograph each room. Having an inventory will make recovery easier. 

Have a Plan

Create an evacuation plan for your bed and breakfast with a designated meeting area. All employees will need to have access to this information.

Make sure to stock up on first aid essentials and have at least one working fire extinguisher on the property. All bedrooms on the property will also need working smoke detectors.

As always, monitor the conditions where your bed and breakfast is located and prepare guests if there is a high chance of wildfires reaching the inn. If your property is in an evacuation area and you are advised to leave, do not hesitate and immediately inform your guests and employees. For more information regarding fire safety, check out our Wildfire Safety Download.

Your bed and breakfast property is one of your largest assets. Set yourself up for recovery after a disaster. Ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage to prepare for disasters like wildfires. Federal catastrophe grants are usually not enough to rebuild a property. Speak with one of our CBIZ Innkeepers Insurance experts or request a consultation!

This blog may contain scenarios that are provided as examples only. In an actual claim situation, coverage is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy issued. The information provided is general in nature and may be affected by changes in law or the interpretation of such laws. The reader is advised to contact a professional prior to taking any action based upon this information.

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