Thank you to all who joined us for the screening of the new documentary “Elemental” this week. If you missed it, here’s a little insight on what we discovered.
The United States sees an average of 72 thousand fires each year. While that number has remained fairly steady, the destruction caused by these fires has increased dramatically in recent history. There is a common misconception that both the problem and the answers to coexisting with wildfires lie within the forests. So many of our fire preparation efforts go towards forest management projects such as clear cutting, thinning and vegetation removal. What we have seen is that regardless of how many resources we put into forest management, in the end there is little to no proof that any of it will make a difference when it comes to saving homes. The types of fires that are causing the mass destruction of our communities are not necessarily traveling from treetop to treetop, but rather being driven by wind. Wind driven fires allow embers to travel much further distances in very little time, and those embers are each capable of starting their own new blaze. A clear-cut barrier around your home does nothing to protect against a stray ember landing on your roof.
So where are our efforts better spent? We can’t do much to control fire, or predict where it will hit next, but we can prepare for it. The work we can put in that has the most potential to make a difference is hardening our homes and businesses and preparing our communities to withstand fire conditions.
What is home hardening? Hardening your home or business is about taking steps to prepare both the land and structures for the possibility of fire. The level of hardening is largely up to the individual putting in the work, and while it is simpler to address many of the areas in which homes can be hardened during new construction, there are ways to update and protect older buildings as well. Simply clearing out flammable clutter from around your home or the property around your park or campground is a great place to start, as well as keeping gutters clean or opting for alternatives to the traditional gutter system such as French drains, or grading. Some other steps which can get more involved, consist of staying away from wood and traditional shingles when choosing or replacing a roof, covering exposed vents, and selecting double-paned windows.
Expenses can add up quickly when any type of construction or remodeling come into the picture, but with the amount spent on forest management and fighting the large blazes each year, it would make sense for some of that funding to be redirected towards hardening our communities and lowering their risk to begin with. The question is, how do we make that happen?
We need to spread awareness of our options and advocate to make home hardening a more accessible and affordable solution. Fire is a part of nature, and we should be treating it that same way we treat other potential natural disasters, by preparing to the best of our abilities. If the state were to repurpose funds and offer grants or tax credits for those putting in the work to harden their structures, more property owners would have the ability to do so, lessening the risk for everyone. With a set of basic standards that could be implemented and improved odds against potential losses, we could also work to redirect the narrative of insurance coverage availability in the state.
While the documentary covered so much insightful information, our biggest takeaway was that we do not need to live in fear of wildfires, when we can in fact adapt and coexist with them. We hope that this is a path we can continue to pursue and share with our communities. Thank you to Ralph Bloemers and the Elemental team for bringing us and our members along for your journey.
Recently CalOHA President and CEO, Dyana Kelley was invited to speak at a hearing regarding the California State Insurance FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) Plan. Dyana presented to Commissioner Lara the challenges we are facing as an industry relating to affordable and equitable coverage.
Following the hearing Dyana spoke at a board meeting for the California Travel Association and presented those challenges. Cal Travel determined that these challenges could have a trickle down effect on tourism and therefore decided to pull together a task force of other associations who have been affected.
On August 30th, CalOHA, Ski California, and CABBI (California Association of Bed & Breakfasts and Inns) met with Commissioner Lara to discuss solutions.
The task force discussed with the commissioner the issues associated with underwriting based on zip code. Many businesses go to great lengths to protect their property with mitigation strategies and should be rewarded for their efforts rather than lumped in with all businesses and homeowners within a zip code region. Additionally, the limited perils of the Plan do not provide for equivalent coverage and in many cases at a much higher rate.
In some respects, the state Department of Insurance hands are tied. The department does not have the authority to force an insurance company to continue writing business in California or what risk classes the company chooses to accept. Additionally, the department does not have authority over the state FAIR Plan or the coverages it chooses to offer. The California FAIR Plan Association provides basic fire insurance to businesses that cannot get insurance through a preferred property insurer. The FAIR plan is not a state agency or a public entity. The FAIR Plan is an insurance pool comprised of all insurers licensed in California. The FAIR Plan issues policies on behalf of its member companies. Each member company participates in the profits, losses and expenses of the Plan in direct proportion to its market share of business written in the state. Unfortunately, the FAIR Plan has been the only option for many of our member parks.
However, Commissioner Lara felt that rebates and rate reductions for mitigation was an area in which the department could get involved and make a difference. Commissioner Lara has proposed a wildfire safety regulation that will help drive down the cost of insurance. The proposal would require insurance companies to recognize consumers’ wildfire mitigation actions in their rate filings. In particular, the rule incorporates the new Fire Risk Reduction Community designation from the Board of Forestry. We believe this regulation will aid all efforts to increase wildfire safety and provide rate decreases for those businesses who take extra precautions.
Along with rebates and rate reductions, the department is working with the FAIR Plan Association to increase the number of perils provided under the plan coverage however, there is an strained relationship between the FAIR Plan and the department so finding middle ground on an equitable policy could be a challenge.
While the process is slow, it is moving and CalOHA has ensured that our industry is on the radar and they are working on strategies to alleviate some of the burden. If you have an extreme case of a rate increase or inability to obtain coverage please reach out to our office. Commissioner Lara is interested in working with individual businesses who are finding hardship with their current coverage.
The California Outdoor Hospitality Association has a long history of success advocating for our members and pushing back against aggressive state bureaucracies. Through the support of our members, we are currently monitoring several bills and other legislative proposals with the potential to impact not only our parks and campgrounds but also businesses across the state. Here is a look at the status of these proposals, where we stand on the matters.
California Department of Insurance
CalOHA President and CEO, Dyana Kelley recently spoke on behalf of the outdoor hospitality industry at a hearing called by California State Insurance Commissioner, Ricardo Lara. The hearing was to determine the overall impact of the state of the insurance industry on California residents and business owners and if the Fair Plan is an adequate solution.
Recommendations included but not limited to broad form peril coverage in the fair plan, expanded business interruption, and elevated service. Additionally, as the Fair Plan was designed as a temporary solution, recommendations of legislation that would prevent providers from pulling out of segments and/or the state were also discussed.
After presenting on the hearing at the Cal Travel board meeting, CalOHA requested an additional meeting with the commissioner to allow for engagement with other segments of the travel and tourism industry.
For more information on the investigatory hearing
AB 2243 - Occupational safety and health standards: heat illness: wildfire smoke (Garcia, Edurado (D))
Summary: The current Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez heat illness standard provides for the prevention of heat-related illness of employees in outdoor places of employment, as prescribed. There is also an existing standard for workplace protection from wildfire smoke. This bill would require the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, before December 1, 2025, to submit to the standards board a rulemaking proposal to consider revising the heat illness standard and wildfire smoke standard to include ultra-high heat in excess of 105 degrees (current standard is 95 degrees and above) and to reduce the AQI threshold for PM2.5 at which respiratory protective equipment becomes mandatory.
We are opposing this bill on the basis that additional regulatory in this regard in unnecessary and that it could create potential for imposition of more stringent standards.
For more information on AB 2243
SB 869 - Housing: mobilehome parks: recreational vehicle parks: manager training. (Levya, Connie (D) /Dodd Christopher (D))
This bill would require the Department of Housing and Community Development, by May 1,2025 to adopt regulations to require at least one person per mobilehome park or recreational vehicle park employed or acting under contract as an onsite manager or assistant manager, or otherwise acting in an onsite or offsite managerial capacity or role, on behalf of a mobilehome park or recreational vehicle park to receive appropriate training of at least 6 hours, and no more than 8 hours, during the initial year and at least 2 hours, and no more than 4 hours, of follow up training each year thereafter on rules and regulations for the park, among other matters.
We are continuing to oppose unless amended to exclude RV parks, remove the penalty to suspend an operators permit to operate, allow for training by agencies other than HCD.
For more information on SB 869
SB 1044 - Employers: state of emergency or emergency condition: retaliation. (Durazo, Maria-Elena (D))
Summary: Would prohibit an employer, in the event of a state of emergency or an emergency condition, as defined, from taking or threatening adverse action against any employee for refusing to report to, or leaving, a workplace within the affected area because the employee feels unsafe, except as specified. The bill would also prohibit an employer from preventing any employee, including employees of public entities, as specified, from accessing the employee’s mobile device or other communications device for seeking emergency assistance, assessing the safety of the situation, or communicating with a person to confirm their safety. The bill would require an employee to notify the employer of the state of emergency or emergency condition requiring the employee to leave or refuse to report to the workplace, as specified. The bill would clarify that these provisions are not intended to apply when a declared official state of emergency remains in place but emergency conditions that pose an imminent and ongoing risk of harm to the workplace, the worker, or the worker’s home have ceased.
As written this bill would allow employees to “walk off” anytime they feel unsafe in the workplace. The feeling of being unsafe is subjective and loosely defined. We are opposed unless amended.
For more information on SB 1044
The support of our members is what allows us to continue fighting and advocating for the future of the outdoor hospitality industry. For more information or to join our association in our efforts please contact the CalOHA office today! (530) 885-1624
CalOHA is currently monitoring Assembly Bill 2243 which would require Cal/OSHA on or before December 31, 2025, to submit a proposal for revising regulations on heat illness “to include an ultrahigh heat standard for employees in outdoor places of employment for heat in excess of 105 degrees Fahrenheit.” Revisions that are being required would include an increase in mandatory cool down periods, immediate availability of cool water, and an increase in monitoring for heat-related illnesses, among others.
This bill would also require that Cal/OSHA revise the wildfire smoke regulation originally adopted in 2019, lowering the AQI (Air Quality Index) threshold at which protections equipment would become mandatory.
Assembly Bill 2243 has been amended in Senate as of June 29, 2022 and sent back to committee. Stay tuned for updates as it progresses but in the meantime, check out these tips for keeping both your workers and guest cool and safe through the summer heat waves.
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