Tampa, Fla. (October 5, 2010) – This is Fire Prevention Week (October 3-9) and, with 85 new wildfires burning today throughout the United States, and many areas of the country under fire watches, the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) offers effective ways to reduce the risk of wildfire-related property damage.
So far this year, more than 47,000 wildfires have consumed nearly 2.8 million acres of wildlands along with hundreds of homes and businesses in several states, according to the U.S. Forest Service. In 2009, wildfires caused an estimated $280 million in overall losses and $185 million in insured losses, according to insurance industry data.
IBHS research shows it is planning – not only luck – that allows some homes or businesses to survive a wildfire while others are destroyed. Creating and maintaining a fire-resistant exterior, installing smoke alarms and fire sprinklers, and paying attention to combustibles located within 30 feet of a structure are effective ways to combat wildfire risks.
Wildfire risks can vary from region to region, and are highly dependent upon the quality of regional building codes, types of building styles and topography. To address the unique risks facing property owners nationwide, the IBHS developed a series of nine, free regional wildfire retrofit guides , which include a risk assessment checklist and a cost estimator to help home and business owners prioritize necessary retrofit projects. These guides along with three brochures are available at www.DisasterSafety.org/wildfire.
The brochures include:
· “Reducing Wildfire Risk: Residential” provides homeowners with strategies on how to reduce their wildfire risk;
· “Reducing Wildfire Risk: Commercial” describes risks faced by small and mid-sized businesses in areas vulnerable to wildfires; and
· “Reducing Wildfire Risk: Farms and Ranches” details the unique wildfire threats farm and ranch owners face.
“Wildfire is a serious risk in 38 states around the country, threatening about 120 million people and their property,” said Julie Rochman, president & CEO, IBHS. “The number of destructive, expensive wildfires continues to rise, and whether or not a particular property – or a cluster of structures – survives a wildfire may depend largely on what people do now to prepare. We want to help property owners take control and minimize their risk by making their homes and businesses more wildfire-resistant.”
Often times, residents and business owners have ample warning when a wildfire is threatening. Still, there have been times when a fast-moving fire caught residents off guard. As part of its Fire Prevention Week, the National Fire Protection Association is urging Americans to install and test existing smoke alarms. According to NFPA data, hardwired smoke alarms are more reliable than those powered solely by batteries. Maintaining a smoke alarm is equally important, NFPA data shows almost all households in the U.S. have at least one smoke alarm, yet in 2003-2006, smoke alarms operated in only 47 percent of all reported home fires. The death rate per 100 reported fires was twice as high in homes without a working smoke alarm as it was in home fires with this protection.
IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research organization supported by property insurers and reinsurers. The Institute works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks to residential and commercial property by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices. Visit www.DisasterSafety.org for more information about IBHS resources.