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wildfire season 2023

Press announcement

Wildfire Season 2023: Expert Tips on How to Prepare and Ensure Business Continuity

Wildfire season typically peaks from July through October in the Northern Hemisphere. However, due to rising global temperatures and record-low rainfall in recent years, destructive wildfires are now occurring beyond the traditional season. These alarming trends are highlighted by the current ongoing wildfire season in several regions, where statistics have already surpassed the average. Large parts of southern Europe are continuing to endure extreme heat as wildfires spread across part of the continent.

Global wildfires and vegetation fires generated approximately 1,455 megatons of carbon emissions in 2022. Some regions, particularly in parts of Europe and South America, saw the highest estimated emissions in the last 20 years during their peak wildfire seasons.1 In the US alone, over 7.5 million acres of land were destroyed by these blazes last year.2 While within European Union countries, it is estimated that between 2.07 to 2.17 million acres have been burnt by wildfires last year.3

This year’s season is already off to an unprecedented start. The wildfires in Canada, which started in June, are already scorching about 15 times the normal burned area this time last year.4 Moreover, the smoke from the fires drifted into the eastern United States, causing unhealthy conditions and leading to air quality warnings. It is expected to be one of the most challenging seasons yet, hence preparation and awareness of the proper steps to take is crucial should an individual be impacted by a wildfire, whether that be directly or indirectly.

Josh Dozor, General Manager of Medical and Security Assistance at International SOS, comments
Wildfires hold not only a threat to the nature they engulf but also human lives, businesses and infrastructure systems that may extend well beyond that fireline.

It is essential that organisations have plans and practices in place to ensure staff accountability and business continuity, should they be affected. Education on the subject and heeding the advice of local emergency management will provide safety for employees, their families and the business.
According to the World Health Organization, wildfires have the ability to ruin not just land but also destroy transportation, communications, power, gas services and water supply. They also lead to a deterioration of the air quality, which can have lasting effects. As we see the detrimental effects of wildfires around us more than ever, International SOS advises organisations to take steps to protect their people as well as prepare for all possible scenarios. Should there be poor air quality, it is key to reduce exposure, stay home and create a clean air space.

Dr Myles Druckman, Global Medical Director at International SOS, comments
Over the past few years, organisations across the globe have faced not only wildfires but pandemics and other natural disasters that have led them to realise it is best to prepare for the unknown.

Organisations should be well informed about the dangers of wildfires not just for their business but also for their employees' wellbeing. They can take steps towards preparing for wildfire season by paying close attention to air quality updates from a trusted source such as IQAir, encouraging employees to limit their time outdoors if air quality is poor, ensuring their office space has clean air spaces made with portable air purifiers and having masks available for employees should they need to go outdoors.

International SOS has more than 38 years of experience providing security and health advice and support to organisations facing extreme nature events, as well as being uniquely positioned to advise on additional challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. Managers with operations in at-risk areas should ensure they have comprehensive procedures in place to guarantee business continuity, factoring in the potential need for evacuation or relocation of the workforce.

International SOS shares best practice tips that organisations can share with their employees for wildfire preparedness:

  1. Highlight the importance of preparation to employees. Ahead of a wildfire, employees should prepare their residential property. They should take necessary measures to keep safe including removing flammable materials and vegetation in a 30-foot radius of structures. Outdoor furniture should be brought inside or placed in swimming pools. All windows and doors should be closed and left unlocked. Curtains should be taken down; fire-resistant window coverings should be considered. Sprinklers and running water should be cut off to preserve critical water pressure. Gas and electricity supply should be turned off to minimise residual damage.
  2. Inform employees on evacuation options. It is crucial that employees identify potential alternative accommodations in case evacuation is necessary. These may be friends’ or relatives’ homes in other towns, public shelters or hotels. It is recommended that they know how to reach their pre-identified accommodation and be ready to take alternative routes if major roads are disrupted. They should have a disaster plan in place, including meeting locations and communication plans, accounting for potential power disruption. It is important that an emergency supply kit is kept ready and multiple evacuation routes are planned.
  3. Promote awareness of the negative implications of wildfire smoke on air quality and how to prepare properly. Even if an employee is hundreds of miles away from a fire, it may impact the air quality in their area. To best prepare, it is advised to have air purifiers on hand and to stay indoors as much as possible. If it becomes necessary to go outdoors, ensure N95 masks are available on-hand.
  4. Ensure employees know who to contact in case of an emergency. Police, emergency services, International SOS Assistance Centre and other local numbers should be saved. Employees should write down these details if their phone runs out of power and is unable to be recharged. They should also designate an out-of-area contact person in case of group separation.
  5. Provide employees with up-to-date information and resources to stay alert and understand the risks and implications caused by wildfires. For further information, please access International SOS’ Extreme Air: Risks, Threats and Precautions webinar.
About the International SOS Group of Companies
The International SOS Group of Companies is in the business of saving lives and protecting your global workforce from health and security threats. Wherever you are, we deliver customised health, security risk management and wellbeing solutions to fuel your growth and productivity. In the event of extreme weather, an epidemic or a security incident, we provide an immediate response providing peace of mind. Our innovative technology and medical and security expertise focus on prevention, offering real-time, actionable insights and on-the-ground quality delivery. We help protect your people, and your organisation's reputation, as well as support your compliance reporting needs. By partnering with us, organisations can fulfil their Duty of Care responsibilities, while empowering business resilience, continuity, and sustainability.

Founded in 1985, the International SOS Group, headquartered in London & Singapore, is trusted by over 9,000 organisations. This includes the majority of the Fortune Global 500. As well as mid-size enterprises, governments, educational institutions, and NGOs. Nearly 12,000 multi-cultural security, medical, logistics and digital experts stand with you to provide support & assistance from over 1,200 locations in 90 countries, 24/7, 365 days. Between them, International SOS employees speak nearly 100 languages and dialects in our Assistance Centres, Clinics, and offices.

To protect your workforce, we are at your fingertips: