Unfortunately, the risk of an uncontrollable, fast-moving fire isn’t just a threat inside your business – it’s also a threat from the outside. Last year, wildfire season cost California alone $55 billion in damages. And as wildfires become more widespread, more out-of-control, and more volatile, it becomes increasingly important for business owners to consider making their facility as fire-resistant as possible.

While much of it might not be in official codes and regulations for fire upgrades yet, you can bet they’re on the way. Regardless – better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to such a big asset as a physical storefront. And your even more important assets – your employees and customers. Let’s discuss how you can make your business more likely to stand up to even the wildest of fires.

Secure the Perimeter: Outside the Building

We tend to think that greenery around a business is attractive. Nicely-landscaped potted plants flanking the storefront doors, maybe some fabric shades for outside dining – these kinds of things make for a welcoming place of business. But we still have to be practical; that little red bud tree is not worth $100,000 worth of potential damage.

Ideally, you’ll create a minimum 5ft margin on all sides of your building where there is absolutely nothing that’s at all flammable. If you need plants, choose small ones that are resistant to burning. Forego any cloth banners, overhangs, shelters, etc. Any benches or outdoor furniture should be plastic-free, fabric-free and wood-free. Use non-flammable materials for all of your signage, and ensure any exterior doors and walls are covered in or made of non-combustible materials like steel, concrete or brick.

Fire-Resistant Walls: On the Face of the Building

Make sure that every one of the exterior doors on your business, including your storefront doors and windows, doubles as a fire-secure door. Consider the heat rating of each exterior door, and the type of commercial door hardware you choose to use as well. Fiberglass doors are often best for exterior doors that aren’t main points of entry or exit; we can’t have every business in Sacramento change their storefront to a uniform, glassless look just because of wildfire. It would look dystopian.

For those ubiquitous and well-loved double and sliding glass entry door and window setups, there are still measures you can take to make your glass storefront safer. First, consider an automated gate shutter system that wholly covers all glass doors and windows with a fire and heat-resistant material. Second, choose dual-paned tempered glass for your exterior double doors and storefront windows; it’s the most heat-resistant type of glass.

You should also consider using reinforced commercial hardware and door framing that’s fire rated on all your exterior doors and windows. Often, you can retrofit existing frames this way, or you could use it as an excuse to switch out your business’ exterior doors and windows, replacing everything with fire-rated materials and construction.

Filling the Cracks: Inside the Building

First of all, you’ve got your fire doors throughout the building – those are compulsory via building codes. But if you’ve gone with the minimum, we’d recommend switching those doors out with higher fire-rated doors. Make sure all the doors in your building have smoke gaskets, and that your outer vents are protected so the ventilation system can’t fill with smoke. Ensure all points of egress are easily available, that there are multiple paths for differently-abled people, as well as multiple shut down and evacuation plans for your staff.

For your differently-abled staff, such as anyone with a sensory impairment or mobility problems, ensure they’re not left behind in the panic. Station people with mobility issues in offices close to exits and preferably on ground floors. Create accessible signage for blind and deaf employees, as well as simple, obstacle-free paths to egress. It’s about keeping everybody safe in a scary situation so no one is left in a potentially dangerous building.

Wildfires are scary, and it’s a little dark that all we have to say is it’s gonna get worse. But don’t worry; if you and your team come up with a thoughtful plan, and you ensure your building is as prepared as it can be, if a wildfire ever does threaten your business, you’ll be sure everyone gets out safe and sound.