On an average year, fires in nonresidential structures cost 90 civilian lives, caused 1,620 civilian injuries and led to $2.6 billion in direct damages. The following suggestions will help mitigate fire hazards for your business.
Fires need tinder, or easily combustible materials, and oxygen to start. If a spark, electrical short, excess heat or other ignition source contacts tinder where oxygen is present, a fire will likely start. Whether it spreads depends on the amount of oxygen and fuel available. Preventing fires requires ensuring that combustible materials do not come into contact with ignition sources. And to contain or slow the spread of fires, you need to minimize their contact with additional fuel sources and oxygen.
A fire can start inside or outside your structures. To begin a fire prevention program, check the perimeter of the building for the following:
- Flammable debris, such as paper, rags, wood, trash. If you must store these items near your structures, store them in solid containers, the more airtight the better.
- Flammable liquids. Make sure any flammable liquids stored outside your structures, including propane and other fuel tanks, are well-labeled and securely closed. In certain areas, you might need to store these in a fenced, locked area.
- Landscaping — well-maintained landscaping can help prevent the spread of fires. Mature shrubbery is somewhat fire-resistant. Weeds, on the other hand, grow and burn quickly. If your property has overgrown areas, consider planting (and maintaining) these areas, or clearing them and replacing planted areas with hardscaping.
Fires can start inside a building as well. Potential fire starters you can find in your building include:
- “Ordinary” combustibles, such as paper, wood, cloth, rubber, building materials. Storing these materials in appropriate containers can minimize their potential to become fuel in a fire. Packing them tightly so air cannot circulate will also help retard the spread of flames.
- Flammable liquids, such as fuel oil, gasoline, cooking oils, solvents. Again, storing these liquids in properly sealed containers can prevent problems.
- Electrical equipment, such as wiring, fuse boxes, motors. Minimize your fire risk by having only qualified contractors install or repair wiring. Keep motorized equipment well-maintained and clear of any combustible debris. Use only extension cords appropriately rated for the appliance or fixture attached.
To contain a fire once it begins requires the proper equipment. Every business, no matter how small, needs at least one fire extinguisher per floor. One fire extinguisher will not work on all types of fires. For best results, match the type of extinguisher to the type of combustibles in the area:
- Class “A” — Ordinary combustibles (wood, paper, cloth, rubber, etc.)
- Class “B” — Flammable liquids (fuel oil, gasoline, cooking grease, solvents, etc.)
- Class “C” — Energized electrical equipment (wiring, fuse box, electric motors, etc.)
- Class “D” — Combustible metals (magnesium, sodium, zirconium, etc.)
Train employees on fire safety. The following tips can minimize injury and property damage:
- Appoint someone to check smoke detectors and fire extinguishers regularly, at least twice a year. Sprinkler systems also need periodic professional inspections; check with your installer for information.
- Learn how to use a fire extinguisher properly. Pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle and spray from side to side at the base of the fire. For safety, the operator should stand between the fire and the exit to allow a quick escape if the fire does not go out.
- If anyone’s clothing or hair catches fire, train them to immediately stop, drop and roll. Running will only feed the fire, causing it to burn more intensely and spread.
- If trapped inside, prevent smoke from spreading by closing doors, blocking any gaps underneath with towels or cloth—preferably wet, if water is available, and covering mouths and noses with cloth.
- If a small fire threatens to spread or the room becomes smoky, evacuate immediately and call 911. An untrained person should never try to fight a large fire.
- Ensure your property is protected with adequate insurance limits. For more information on protecting your property from fire, please call us.