Fire Exit sign

In Case of Fire: How To Protect Your Business

Every business should be prepared for a fire. There are steps you can take to prevent a fire from happening and be prepared if one occurs.

Fires are destructive because they generate flames, smoke and heat. All of these can damage buildings and their contents. Firefighting materials like water and chemicals can be damaging, too.

Most commercial property insurance and business owner policies cover damage caused by fires and fire suppression materials. Many include some coverage for fees charged by fire departments for firefighting services.

By purchasing adequate fire insurance, you can significantly improve the chances of your business surviving a fire loss.

Prevention and preparedness tips

Managing fire risk consists of two main objectives: prevention and preparedness. Here are 12 fire prevention and preparedness tips for your business:

1. Create and maintain a fire prevention plan. Train your employees on the steps to take if a fire occurs, including calling 911 immediately.

2. Develop an evacuation plan and do fire drills. Map out evacuation routes with as many alternative paths as possible for employees. Create detailed plans to ensure the safety of employees with disabilities. Conduct a fire drill at least once a year, and ensure employees know the plan.  

3. Make sure your business complies with all local fire codes. This helps keep your people and property safe. It can also reduce red tape if you ever have to file an insurance claim.

4. Install a fire alarm system and smoke detectors. Fire alarms and smoke detectors will alert workers and other business occupants of a fire so everyone can evacuate safely. Notifying occupants quickly reduces the chance of injuries (or worse).

5. Have fire extinguishers. Make sure you have enough fire extinguishers and they are properly mounted, tagged and inspected. Train all employees on proper use.

6. Install a sprinkler system, a foam system or another fire suppression system. Fire suppression systems should cover your building. They should be designed to trigger automatically. Regularly inspect, maintain and repair your fire suppression system.

7. Eliminate clutter. A significant step toward preventing fires in any building is to eliminate clutterBoxes and building materials are fuel for a fire. Keep paper and rags away from any source of ignition. Also, keep all evacuation pathways and doors clear of obstructions and blockages. And keep exit doors unlocked when the building is occupied.

8. Be cautious with electrical equipment. Install proper outlets, switches, wiring, circuit breakers and junction boxes in your building. Use properly grounded and insulated power strips and extension cords. Make sure power strips are Underwriters Laboratories (UL)-certified and capable of handling the loads you put on them. Don’t connect multiple power strips or extension cords in sequence.

9. Store hazardous materials safely. Do not store flammable materials beside the furnace or other heat sources. Even stockpiling flammable or hazardous materials in a storeroom or basement can be dangerous. Make sure all chemicals are clearly marked.

10. Properly maintain machines. Clean and maintain your machines regularly to reduce the risk of malfunctions and fires.

11. Designate smoking areas. Workers should smoke only in designated areas outside of the building. Provide large ashtrays that don’t easily tip over and never empty the contents into wastebaskets.

12. Be aware of arson risks. Arson is one of the main causes of workplace fires. Employees can help prevent arson by locking doors at the end of the day.

It can be difficult to think about the devastation a workplace fire can cause. But the best way to protect your business from fire is to prepare.

Insurance is an important part of your plan, too. Review your policy annually to ensure it includes all your buildings and locations and verify the addresses listed on the policy. If you have questions about your business fire insurance needs, contact your insurance professional.

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