Regardless of the type of entity your company insures, fire safety should be a primary concern.
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. Although not quite a third of the fires occurred between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., they caused two-thirds (67 percent) of the property damage. 19 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.
- Surprisingly, the most damaging fires started in an office. Though only 12 percent of business fires began in this location, they caused 24 percent of all property damage from fires.
Here are fire prevention and safety tips for business owners and managers, plus a list of tips for your employees, culled from multiple safety websites.
- Never block sprinklers, firefighting equipment or emergency exits. Observe clearances when stacking materials.
- Maintain unobstructed access to electrical control panels.
- Check 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.
- 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 also can be manually turned on by pulling an emergency switch. Restaurants and offices should have their 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 stairwells 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. 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. This is a crucial component in our fire prevention and safety tips: have a clearly marked plan.
Related: 31 restaurant fire prevention tips
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 a procedure for 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.
Remind your employees
- 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.
- If you spot a fire, call 911 immediately. 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 ensure the safety of your workers and your property in case of a fire starts with the use of our fire prevention and safety tips. Talk with your staff about fire safety in the workplace today.