IBHS Offers Guidance on Protecting Against Wildfire-Related Damage

In support of California Wildfire Awareness Week (May 6 -12), the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is providing free guidance to help property owners lower their risk of wildfire damage.

When it comes to preparing for wildfire season, IBHS and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Services (CAL FIRE) encourage property owners to consider these three words: “Ready, Set, Go!” IBHS is a strong supporter of the national Ready, Set, Go! Program, which was created by the International Association of Fire Chiefs to give firefighters educational tools to work with property owners in areas at high risk from wildfires, often called the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). The program teaches property owners to get their homes “Ready” for wildfire season by taking steps, such as creating defensible space zones and keeping roofs, gutters and decks clear of debris. Learn more about Ready, Set, Go!

IBHS reminds property owners there are three threats to a building during a wildfire: windborne embers (also known as firebrands), direct flame contact and radiant heat. Property owners should evaluate and work to reduce the risk from all of these potential threats.

“Ember exposure is considered the most important threat, because most building ignitions have been attributed to them,” said Dr. Steve Quarles, senior research scientist at IBHS. “Embers can ignite combustible building components and contents directly, or ignite vegetation and other combustible items located adjacent to or near a building. Once ignited, this material can expose a home or business to radiant heat and direct contact with flames.”

To achieve the optimal protection against wildfire, home and business owners must diligently maintain the vegetation on their property and carefully select materials used to build and retrofit buildings on the property.

Creating defensible space, where vegetation is carefully managed, will reduce the threat from ignitions from embers that land on the property. Defensible space should extend at least 100 ft. from your home or to the property line. The area within 30 ft. of your home or business is especially important, particularly the area within 5 ft. of any building. IBHS offers a complete guide to creating defensible space.

“By creating a noncombustible zone in the 5 feet immediately next to your home or business you will remove most things that could be ignited by wind-blown embers during a wildfire,” Dr. Quarles said. “Consider using rock or stone mulch instead of bark, pine needles or other combustible mulch products.”

Download a free copy of the IBHS Wildfire Assessment Checklist to help identify and correct vulnerabilities on your property. Use the cost estimator tool in the checklist to help prioritize “to-do” projects now, and identify larger projects that should be part of future maintenance and renovations.

IBHS also offers complete wildfire retrofit guides for Southern California and the Pacific Northwest, which includes Northern California,  as well as commercial, residential, and farms and ranches wildfire preparation brochures.

See what really happens to a house in a wildfire ember storm and learn best practices for reducing the risk of wildfire damage. In March, IBHS conducted the first-ever full-scale wildfire ember storm demonstration at the IBHS Research Center in South Carolina. This demonstration was part of a building science study to illustrate how easily embers can ignite materials and items near or on a house, and what homeowners can do to better protect their homes. Read a summary of this study at the eXtension Wildfire Information Network (eWIN).

IBHS is a leading national expert on preparing for and repairing and rebuilding structures after a catastrophe to make them more disaster-resistant. To arrange an interview with IBHS, contact Joseph King at 813-675-1045/813-442-2845, jking@ibhs.org or via direct message on Twitter @jsalking.

Visit www.DisasterSafety.org for more information about how to make your buildings more resistant to a variety of disasters, big and small. Follow IBHS on Twitter at @DisasterSafety and on Facebook.

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