The trees that make up our local communities add incredible value to cities. An urban forest both beautifies and purifies a community, making trees a necessary part of a city’s growth and development. While a tree’s value is immeasurable, the trees lining our city streets and sidewalks can also become a serious point of concern by presenting serious risks to the safety of residents.
Fortunately for the over 330 cities tree care company West Coast Arborists (WCA) serves, risk management efforts are a prominent driving force for all of their work. WCA’s Vice President of Risk Management Ernesto Macias describes the top three tree-related issues facing cities and how WCA works to combat and prevent these issues from occurring.
Macias notes the foremost issue affecting their California clients are ongoing drought conditions. During a drought, many trees’ root systems begin to decline, which can often result in a dead tree. Dead-standing trees found throughout our communities become a serious concern due to the increased probability that they will fall and may harm residents.
Macias also raises the concern that many cities are not planting enough trees. In conjunction with the ongoing drought, fewer trees mean less shade which can lead to an increased risk of heat-related illness and put extra strain on our electric grid when more households must turn on AC units to stay cool.
Lastly, through working with WCA, Macias has found many cities do not have an updated and accurate inventory of their trees. He notes that having an updated inventory is crucial in preventing a problem before it occurs.
To proactively address many of the issues facing city clients, WCA performs regular tree inventories for their clients and stores this information using their state-of-the-art online inventory management program, Arbor Access.
“Our online tree inventory goes far and beyond any program out in the market,” said Macias. “Using Arbor Access, we can determine what trees need a more detailed assessment and present several options following an inspection. We then share this information with the city which allows the city to make decisions knowing all risks that are involved.”
Not only does WCA work closely with city risk managers and staff, but they also actively engage with industry associations such as the Joint Powers Insurance Authority, Risk Management Society, and the Public Agency Risk Association. By working with leaders in risk management and local city connections, WCA ensures they stay up to date on all the latest issues affecting their clients.
“We actively look at all of our claims and determine how to prevent them from occurring again.” said Macias “We understand that the more our customers manage their tree-related risks and the more we help them manage these risks, the better the outcome is for the both of us.”
While cities are not required to follow all WCA’s tree-related suggestions, WCA has seen many of their clients think more deeply about risk management and prioritize getting ahead of potential issues.
“It is important we form a partnership with our city clients,” said Macias. “We understand tree maintenance can be expensive for cities, but we hope to show our clients that the value in regular maintenance is immense and incredibly important in risk management.”