According to recent data from the National Fire Protection Association, local fire departments across the U.S. respond to 120,000 commercial structure fires annually. In 2019 alone, these fires were estimated to cause 110 deaths, 1200 injuries and $4.3 billion in property damage. It’s important to realize that fires can occur anytime, including after-hours, weekends or holidays when no one is onsite to take defensive measures.
That’s why all offices and commercial buildings must have 24-hour fire protection buffers in place. Of course, you can’t predict when a fire might spark, but you can plan to keep your business safe, as well as any occupants on the premises. Here are some strategies to implement on the front end, to be as prepared as possible (at all times of day).
Install and Monitor Protective Equipment
To maintain 24-hour fire protection, you first need to install the right safety equipment around the property and run routine, thorough maintenance inspections to ensure it all works. Below is a checklist of what you need, plus how often you should examine each piece of equipment.
✔️ Multi-function fire extinguisher
Ensure that your extinguisher is classified for the type of fire you’d most likely encounter at your business. (Learn more about the ABC classifications here).
Inspection: Check monthly for broken seals, leaks and other surface issues. Do a professional inspection annually for internal damage.
✔️ Ceiling sprinkler system
Refer to our list of Different Fire Sprinkler Systems Explained for a breakdown of the best option for your property.
Inspection: Check quarterly for potential issues with water flow alarms, control valves, gauges and backflows. Complete a professional inspection annually to examine hangers, pipes, braces, sprinkler heads, fittings and other internal mechanisms.
✔️ Heat and smoke detection alarm
These small but mighty tools should be strategically placed throughout your property and regularly maintained.
Inspection: Check weekly for warning lights, system cracks and other visible malfunctions. Run quarterly fire drills to ensure the alarm activates correctly. Do a professional inspection annually to test the control panels and battery power.
Use and Store Flammable Materials Correctly
A flammable substance can be either liquid (with a flashpoint of 73–100 degrees F) or solid (with a flashpoint of 101–200 degrees F or above). Cleaning solvents, paints, adhesives, kerosene, fuels, oils, aerosols, and certain metallics and chemicals all have the potential to ignite a spark and, therefore, must be treated carefully.
Keep such materials away from electrical switches, water heaters or open flames and only handle them in ventilated, low-static areas. When not in use, follow these recommendations to store combustible substances and minimize the risk of starting a fire.
- Store flammable materials in a UL-listed safety container made of glass, polyethylene, or approved metals and plastics. Be sure not to store any of these substances near strong oxidizers, heat sources or direct sunlight.
- Lock the safety containers in a flammable storage cabinet made of double-walled steel with insulating air space on all sides, riveted or welded joints, and three-point latching on the doors. Place an OSHA label on the cabinet that says, “Flammable — Keep Fire Away,” and ensure it doesn’t obstruct any exits.
Invest in the Right Insurance Coverage
Fire damage is one of the most common and expensive claims for small business owners, with an estimated liability cost of $35,000, according to a report from The Hartford. So it’s crucial to make sure you have the right insurance in place. The types of insurance coverage below can help you recover and rebuild after structural impact, plus protect your company from any injury liabilities or third-party damages.
- Commercial Property: covers the building (if you own it) and the value of all items you own inside of it, such as equipment, furniture and inventory.
- General Liability: Covers risk of third-party (vendors, customers, workers, etc.) injuries, property damage or potential defamation lawsuits.
- Business Interruption: Covers financial losses due to temporary business closure or scaled-back operations such as rent and utility bills, relocation costs, employee salaries, debt payments or decrease in business income.
Ensure 24-Hour Fire Protection for Your Business
Being informed and prepared are the best ways to safeguard your business and ensure you have 24-hour fire protection.
Looking for more resources to help safeguard your business at all times? Here are some additional articles, blog posts and reference materials to check out for maximum commercial fire safety.
- OSHA’s Small Business Health and Safety Handbook
- National Fire Protection Association’s Safety Tip Sheets
- E-Safety’s 5 Workplace Fire Safety Tips
- Chron’s What to Do if a Fire Occurs at Our Workplace
- A&A’s Fire Protection Guide: Commercial Fire Alarms: Everything Business Owners Need to Know