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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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BBB Tip of the Week: Keeping things safe in a natural disaster

By Tyler Russell BBB Northwest+Pacific

It is wildfire season in Washington, and the U.S. Forest Service warns 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.

In 2017, costs for wildfire suppression reached a historic high of $2.4 billion. Through the 2018 Omnibus Bill, Congress provided the Forest Service with a total of $1.5 billion for wildfire suppression this year and changed the way wildfire combat is funded beginning in fiscal 2020.

Protecting your personal documents is of the utmost importance. Make sure you have a safe place for you and your family’s documents. These include your Social Security card, birth certificate, passport and other hard to replace documents. For businesses, make sure to secure your customers’ information by ensuring it is locked up, or transfer the files to a cloud-based security system.

While strangers will reach out to help others during a natural disaster, scammers make situations worse by trying to take advantage of victims. Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific reminds those affected by natural disasters to beware of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting businesses.

Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes or make big promises on which they can’t deliver. The con artists typically show up after a natural disaster and offer to help with cleanup for a low cost. Be sure to research any company before doing business with it and never be pressured into making quick decisions when being solicited by a contractor.

Remember, it’s just as important to be prepared before disaster strikes. Here are some steps you can take to get your home and business ready:

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 your Social Security card, birth certificate, passport 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 customer 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 to learn about the potential emergencies that could occur where you live and the appropriate ways to respond to them. Get more scam tips at

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