Wildfires are a common natural hazard that occur across much of the world. Caused by a combination of weather, wind and dry underbrush, wildfires can consume acres of land in mere minutes. On average, more than 100,000 wildfires clear 4-5 million acres of land in the U.S every year, moving at speeds of up to 14 miles an hour.
Wildfires are increasingly becoming more deadly as heat waves, droughts and climate changes increase the risk and alter the behaviour of wildfires dramatically. Changes to the climate are resulting in more widespread fires and longer fire seasons, while we are also seeing an increase in the intensity and frequency of wildfires.
Just a few months ago California saw its deadliest and most destructive wildfire season on record, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres. At least 42 people lost their lives in the fires, although many are still missing, and an estimated 250,000 were forced to abandon their homes.
New Zealand is currently battling their own fires that could continue burning until March. In the southern part of the country, over 3,000 individuals had to be evacuated from their homes due to a blaze that spread over 5,700 acres. Australian citizens are also currently at risk from large and often dangerous fires breaking out, threatening homes, businesses and livestock. From 2017-2018, the Fire and Rescue North South Wales team responded to 124,438 fires and explosions, an increase of over a thousand from the previous year.
Risk to remote workers
Amidst the devastation and loss citizens in these regions face, wildfires can also cause panic and disruption to businesses and their employees. Individuals may be directly affected by the fires while they work and a rush to leave the area could leave organisations struggling to locate their employees to ensure they are safe.
When situations like this arise, employers need to have specific measures put in place to ensure the safety of their workers. The risk is heightened when companies employ remote workers who spend a large amount if not all of their working day, in various locations. If disaster does strike, finding out whether employees are safe can be incredibly time-consuming. Businesses can lose valuable working time locating workers, causing disruptions to daily operations.
In 2016, workers from an alumina refinery in South Perth took action against their employer due to the lack of proper fire evacuation methods in place. The workers were represented by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union because they felt their safety was put in jeopardy when a fire broke out and they were not informed of the measures to be taken if such an event were to occur. Many of them were left shaken and fearful of returning to work.
Despite the deadly and unsystematic nature of wildfires, there are ways to help lessen the impact and immediate danger many employees find themselves in. With StaySafe’s IncidentEye, employers have instant access to their remote workers’ whereabouts and know early on whether they are in danger.
The IncidentEye management solution is an app and monitoring service which allows you to rapidly locate and protect your employees during an emergency. The intuitive Hub lets you check the location and status of your employees, send tailored communications and help them to avoid harm. Companies can also warn other employees who could be on route to a dangerous location that they should avoid the area. Employees are able to update their employees on their present status, whether they are safe or in danger and in need of help.
Implementing a safety solution such as IncidentEye could help employees feel more at ease when working in dangerous environments whilst ensuring employers are maintaining their legal duty.
To find out more about the IncidentEye solution, get in contact today or sign up for an online demo.