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  • Writer's pictureErika Andresen

Wild About Wildfires

Wildland fires are my favorite natural disaster. I'm fascinated by them. I have personal pet projects dedicated to alleviating the issues for the wildland firefighters and the communities. That is the emergency management nerd in me. The business continuity expert (originally from NYC) has a few things to say about them as well. AQI. Should we know what it is? Yup. It's not the next IQ or EQ. It stands for Air Quality Index. I was tracking AQI heavily to make sure I didn't have to cancel a trip to Lake Tahoe early September 2021 due to wildfires. Now a lot of people, especially bordering Canada, are familiar with it because you have to be. Wildfire smoke will impact the AQI and your ability to go outside safely. You might only think about how this impacts your personal life but your employees will have to contend with the same issues on their way to work or in doing their work. The much loved and hated N-95 masks are back in fashion. What else can wildfires do, aside from incinerating everything in its path? Ash will clog air filters in vehicles. Ash can also become as abrasive as sandpaper when wet, so washing a fleet of vehicles if they aren’t garaged will require special care. Yes, but what about when the fires are out? They're done, right? (You should know me by now that the answer is no). Wildfires leave burn scars (which destroys all ground vegetation). The most commonly known issue that burn scars cause is flooding because there is nothing to absorb subsequent rain waters. The bigger problem is water quality. Contaminants (mostly from burned man-made structures) are released and an ashy sludge will enter the water supply making it undrinkable. Las Vegas, New Mexico, experienced this issue with water quality for this very reason, after last summer's wildfires - the worst in the state's history. The wildfire created a water shortage for citizens and businesses alike. Strict water restrictions were put in place - residents were permitted one-third of water they used before the fire. Restaurants had to serve food on paper plates and use disposable utensils. Even when they responded with business continuity measures to keep the doors open, it created a new business issue that needed to be addressed: extra garbage. This scenario is not unique to New Mexico. California and Oregon have experienced similar after-effects from their wildfires. What are business owners to do? Track the wildfires. Plan on having masks on hand and prepare for remote work (covid was a great drill for that). Also think ahead for what happens when the fires are out and plan for plan for the consequences of those plans.

The planning is continuous, not just the response.

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