Hayden Ward

Is Your Vacation Rental Business Prepared for a Wildfire?

Wildfire safety for airbnb's and vrbo's

Every year wildfires rage, threatening, damaging and, far too often, destroying homes and businesses throughout the nation. Nearly 85% of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by humans. Often, they are the result of unattended campfires, burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining wildfires are typically caused by lightning or other weather events. 

Although you may not be able to stop wildfires from occurring in your area, there are measures you can take to reduce the risk of your vacation rental property being lost to one. While no property is fireproof, the goal is to prevent your home from being a fuel source for spreading the fire. Planning your landscape, using proper building materials, and having a financial disaster fund are proactive steps in laying the groundwork for the safety and protection of your vacation rental property.

Things to Consider as You Scan Your Property for Potential Fire Risks

Landscaping

Landscaping your property with wildfire safety in mind, not solely curb appeal, can help reduce the spread of wildfires. If your rental property is in a high risk fire area, evaluate the perimeter of your home with a fire safety mentality. Conduct research to make sure that your plants are not highly flammable. For example, the lovely palm trees with leaves hanging over your property could ignite and catch your roof on fire. Opt for a safer option such as hardwood trees that are less flammable to protect your property and your business.

Keep in mind your property should have three different zones that act as a defense to fires. Zone 1 should be 5ft. from your home, and is the most important one to keep clear of any brush, trees, and grasses. Zones 2 and 3 are between 30 and 100ft. and can be extended depending on if your home is located on a hill. With these zones, it is crucial to prune, keep the ground clear, and the grass short. It is an unfortunate fact that a high percentage of homes ignite after the strongest part of the wildfire has passed due to smoldering leaves, grass, or brush. 

For more information on landscaping maintenance to protect your property from wildfires, make sure to read our blog post on it here.

Building Materials

There are many updates and small renovations you can make to your short-term rental property to help combat the spread of fire. The absolute key, however, is to understand the unique ways fire could attack your short-term rental property. This helps determine which sides of the house should be fire-proofed first.

The following are a few different home renovation ideas to help reduce the risk of wildfire damage.

1. Windows: Windows are the weakest link in defending your vacation rental property. Heat alone can break and shatter your windows whether or not there are flames close to your house. A safe alternative to the standard pane window, is double glazing your windows with tempered glass on the exterior. Roll down metal fire doors that can be built into the roof overhangs are also strong defenders against heat and fire.

2. Doors: The standard wooden door typically provides 20 minutes of fire protection. For extra safety and allowing more time, consider replacing your wooden door for one with a metal core. Don’t forget about garage doors either! Metal panel garage doors can also help reduce the risk of wildfire damage.

3. Roofs: According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), roof materials should be compiled of noncombustible coverings that are Class A rating, such as metal or asphalt. An easy task you can do regularly is clean the gutters and downspouts of your vacation rental property. This will decrease fuel for the fire.

4. Vents: Ensure that your bathroom, kitchen, and dryer vents have automatic back-draft dampers and fire-rated assemblies. Metal sleeves and hoods need to cover all plastic plumbing vents where they penetrate your roof.

Outdoor Furniture and Décor

Your property receives a lot of outdoor activity during the summer. Not only do you want your outdoor oasis to be the ultimate relaxation zone, you also want it to be safe for your business and guests.

If your property has a grill or fire pit, take precautionary measures to ensure that your grill or fire pit does not pose more risk. Check out our Grill and Chill blog post for more fire safety measures.

Last but not least, do not forget about any fabric cushions or umbrellas outside when there is a wildfire risk. Store outdoor décor inside a shed or a garage. Fabric and plastic is highly flammable and could ignite, sparking other items to catch fire.

Water Supply

Though firefighters will be putting out wildfires, it is in your best interest to make sure you have easy and reliable access to a water supply. This could be a pool, a pond, water fountain, or even a hose. Any source of water you can locate will help. However, if you are using a hose, make sure it can reach the entire property.

Financially Ready

Disaster can always strike, so it is wise to prepare your business for the worst-case scenario. Create a contingency plan and a financial crisis strategy. Take the time to review your insurance policy and update your coverage.

It is important to help mitigate risks by making digital copies of your property’s inventory. Don’t forget to save the receipts for major purchases or updates to your vacation rental property. Ensure important documents, such as mortgage and insurance information, are stored electronically as well as in a fire-safe lock box. Take the time to video or photograph each room including the garage, closets, and possibly inside drawers. Having a home inventory will make recovery easier. 

Have a Plan

Create an evacuation plan for your property with a designated meeting place and place it in your guest handbook so it is easily accessible. This plan should contain where to go, how to get there, what to take, and how to communicate with you. To help streamline your plan, download our Wildfire Checklist.

Stock up on first aid essentials and make sure you have at least one working fire extinguisher on the property. It is wise to leave your guest a well-equipped survival kit as well.

As always, monitor the conditions where your vacation rental property is located and prepare guests if there is a high chance of wildfires reaching the house. Kindly ask your guests to close all windows, doors and blinds, and leave the lights on in the property to aid firefighters. If your property is in an evacuation area and you are advised to leave, do not hesitate and let your guests know immediately.

Your property is one of your largest assets. Set yourself up for recovery after a disaster. Ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage to prepare for disasters like wildfires. Federal catastrophe grants are usually not enough to rebuild a property. Speak with a CBIZ Vacation Rental Insurance expert or request a free quote today.

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About Us

CBIZ Vacation Rental Insurance, a division of CBIZ Insurance Services,Inc., is the largest insurer of short-term vacation rental properties in the United States. As part of an $850 million New York Stock Exchange traded company (CBZ), we are the first broker to develop specific policy coverage to meet the needs for vacation rental properties and the amenities offered by these businesses. We have insured vacation rental properties since 2002.

The CBIZ Vacation Rental Insurance team knows insurance, specifically the risks and exposures related to short-term vacation rentals.We won't confuse you with technical "insurance speak" ~ our representatives are well versed in explaining your coverage in plain English. With hands-on, personal customer service, we guarantee swift communication and a 24/7 claims team that is ready to respond to your call any time of the day. As specialist in the industry, we leverage our knowledge and passion to ensure you and your business are adequately protected.