By August, Montanans know that our pristine air quality could take a turn, and quickly. That smoky air from raging fires can linger well into September, too. Wildfire season brings smoky days and poor air quality, to some degree, every year. Unfortunately, it can also bring loss – of property, mementos or life. 

The US Forest Service has already warned this season could be especially significant for wildfires. While it’s important we all do our part to prevent wildfires, it’s just as important for residents and business owners to prepare for such a natural disaster.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, Montana had 1,342 fires in 2018 which burned 97,814 acres. Wildfires alone cost US taxpayers over $2 Billion (USDA.gov) last year alone. With so much devastation year after year, how can businesses and homeowners protect themselves? 

Your Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific urges you to take the following steps to prepare yourself before disaster strikes. These tips will help you protect both your home and business.:

 

For consumers: 

Keep documents secure. Store your documents in a safe place that is easy to access such as a safe deposit box. This includes Social Security cards, birth certificates, passports and any other official, hard-to-replace documents. Documents not kept in a safe can land in the wrong hands.  

Have a plan. Familiarize yourself with your town’s emergency plans for shelter and evacuation. Have a list of emergency contacts, the locations frequented by family members and know the specific needs of household members, including animals.

 

For businesses: 

Practice emergency drills. Businesses should practice drills with employees and have processes in place to account for employees in the event of a disaster.  

Lock up customers’ information. Remember to safeguard your customers’ privacy by protecting their data.  Lock up important papers or transfer them to the cloud to keep them safe and intact.  

 

BBB recommends using FEMA’s website at ready.gov to learn about the potential emergencies that could occur and ways to respond to them. Get more scam tips at bbb.org/scamtips.

 

Hannah Stiff is the Montana Marketplace Manager for BBB Northwest + Pacific. She can be reached at Hannah.stiff@thebbb.org.

 

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.