Protect your business with these fire prevention tips
Has it been awhile since you (or your insurance client) took a hard look at fire safety in your commercial building? Pass along this list of fire prevention tips and safety tactics to your building management team.
The National Fire Prevention Association studied 98,000 non-residential fires that totaled $2.6 billion in damages. Here’s what they found in their five-year study:
- Most commercial fires occurred when the premises were less populated. Nearly a third of the fires occurred between 7:00 pm and 7:00 am, but caused two-thirds (67 percent) of the property damage. Nineteen percent were on weekends, causing 31 percent of the damage. Noon to 2 p.m. was the third-highest peak time.
- 29 percent of commercial blazes were started by cooking equipment and resulted in six percent of the direct property damage; 22 percent began in the kitchen or cooking area, causing just one percent of direct damage.
- Surprisingly, the most damaging fires started in an office. Though only 12 percent of business fires began in this location, they caused the most property damage (24 percent).
Here are some fire prevention tips to share with your business owners and managers, culled from multiple safety experts.
Fire prevention measures
- Never block sprinklers, firefighting equipment or emergency exits. Observe clearances when stacking materials.
- Maintain unobstructed access to electrical control panels.
- Check on your electrical cords. If a cord is damaged in any way, replace it. Try not to lay cords in places where they can be stepped on, as this will contribute to deterioration of the protective outside coating.
- Follow manufacturers’ recommendations for maximum volt/wattage load for surge protectors, power strips and adapters, and ask your electrician to periodically inspect these items and outlets for potential overload. Don’t overload your circuits.
- Use and store chemicals safely. Read labels to determine flammability and other fire hazards. Provide adequate ventilation when using and storing these substances.
- Use non-sparking tools and control static electricity as required.
- Help maintain building security to prevent arson fires. Lock up as instructed; report suspicious persons; and don’t leave combustible rubbish where it can be set afire outside the building.
- Allow smoking only in designated areas, away from storerooms or chemical storage areas, and provide fire-safe disposal of cigarette butts.
- Don’t allow paper and other trash to accumulate outside of garbage or recycling receptacles, and never store this material near hot equipment, electrical outlets or the smoking areas
Fire suppression systems
If your business doesn’t already have one, it pays to consider installing a fire suppression system. These complex devices are placed in different areas of the building. They automatically trigger when the temperature changes to a pre-set level, releasing chemicals into fire-prone locations to extinguish the fires. They can also be manually turned on by pulling an emergency switch. Restaurants and offices should have the fire suppression systems installed professionally, in compliance with fire codes. After installation, test the system thoroughly. Regularly inspect the system along with its fire extinguishers to ensure they comply with local laws and fire safety codes.
Determine the fastest and safest paths to safety, and mark them clearly. Post maps (with “you are here” marks) in break rooms and near exits — which should be clearly indicated with signs. Put up reminders that elevators cannot be used during most emergencies. Check emergency lighting in stairwells and make sure they aren’t used as storage areas. Make necessary provisions for any disabled workers, especially if the escape route includes stairs. Also determine how you will help any visitors who are unfamiliar with your plan.
The plan should include which exits to use, and employees should be aware of the number of steps required to reach the exit in case there are visibility problems. Every establishment should have at least two exits in case one of them is blocked.
Nail down your company’s emergency procedures and evacuation plan. Then communicate and communicate again. Conduct periodic fire drills to ensure they’re remembered.
Your emergency procedures should also include how to sound the alarm and call the fire department, where to find the emergency shut-off of equipment and machinery and shutting doors and windows, if there’s time. Select a meeting place far enough away from the building to allow full access to the property by firefighters and other emergency personnel, and ensure supervisors know to take a headcount of their employees.
Keep an up-to-date list of emergency contact information. Outline who notifies the next of kin of injured parties, and designate one person to notify emergency responders of people still in the office or unaccounted for.
- Turn off electrical appliances at the end of each day.
- Keep heat-producing equipment (copiers, computers, coffee makers, microwaves, toasters) away from anything that might burn.
- Report electrical hazards such as faulty wiring or equipment malfunctions.
- Smoke only in designated areas, and extinguish smoking materials safely. Never smoke in storerooms or chemical storage areas.
- Call 911 immediately if you spot a fire. Don’t hang up with the emergency responder until told to do so.
- Close doors when exiting to help limit the spread of smoke and fire throughout the building.
- Never use elevators during an evacuation.
- Follow the escape plan and meet at a pre-determined place outside of your building and away from danger. Find your supervisor for a headcount.
- Post emergency telephone numbers as well as the company address by the telephone in your station for quick access if a fire were to start in your work area.
- Learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
The best way to help your commercial clients ensure the safety of their workers and their property in case of a fire is by discussing with them the need for fire safety measures. Pass along these fire prevention tips today.
This post originally appeared in Arrowhead’s Tribal blog. It has been updated and modified to be of greater help to our ACM clients.