Implementation of fire safety measures should be at the top of the list for business owners who recently opened or renovated a brick-and-mortar space. According to a 2020 report from the National Fire Protection Association, the number of fires ignited due to new construction or renovation has increased in recent years—but that doesn’t mean they’re unpreventable.
The leading causes of structural fires include electrical failure or malfunction, a heat source stored too close to hazardous materials, or a flammable item left in the building. However, these hazards are less likely to occur when you’ve already installed the proper equipment and followed safety protocols.
As the person liable for the safety of customers, employees, and the business, you can’t be too careful to minimize fire risks. We recommend following these basic (but essential) fire safety tips for any standard office or retail space:
Install Fire Safety Equipment in the Proper Location
Your business needs to invest in fire exits, smoke detectors, portable fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems to meet the minimum OSHA requirements for fire protection. But it’s not enough just to have all this equipment on hand—you also must ensure the devices are in the correct location (and in working order, of course). Here’s a rundown of where to install each piece of equipment per the latest commercial codes:
- Fire Exits: over any doors on the evacuation route with direct access to the outside, mounted as a visible, clearly marked sign above the door frame;
- Smoke Detectors: on the wall of any high-traffic area, including stairways, mounted 12 inches from the ceiling (don’t install near ducts, windows, or doors);
- Fire Extinguishers: on the wall of any regular travel path, mounted 4”– 4’ (aim for about waist height) off the ground in a visible, unobstructed glass cabinet;
- Sprinklers: on the ceiling of all interior rooms of the building (and floor-to-ceiling pallet racks in a commercial warehouse if your business operates one).
Schedule Fire Inspections and Maintenance Checks
After the equipment installation, create a plan to monitor functionality through regularly scheduled fire inspections. Do not overlook this fire safety tip—it’s one of the most crucial measures you can take as a responsible business owner. Scheduling a six-month or annual fire inspection will ensure your building meets these areas of compliance:
- Egress: the ease with which someone can locate the exit and evacuate your building;
- Sprinklers: placement and functionality of the whole system and each sprinkler head;
- Alarms: position and functionality of smoke detectors and automatic fire doors;
- Extinguishers: placement and functionality of portable fire extinguishers (NFPA code also states that you should perform a manual inspection yourself once a month);
- Storage: safekeeping of all combustible materials or chemicals in approved, secure containers away from heat and electrical sources that could ignite a fire;
- Electrical: safe, optimal functioning of all switches, outlets, extension cords, surge suppressors, circuit wiring, main breaker box, and other electrical devices;
- Emergency Access: clear, accessible entrance for first responders into the building.
Map Out an Accessible Evacuation Route
This advice might sound like an obvious fire safety tip, but no effective protection strategy would be complete without creating an evacuation route for building occupants. If a fire occurs inside your business, both workers and employees should be able to escape the interior premises unharmed as quickly as possible.
To ensure maximum safety in a fire, you’ll need to formulate an evacuation plan, communicate it to your staff, practice it together, and post a clear, legible map of the route in a prominent area where customers and employees will see. These steps can help reduce panic and lower the risk of “traffic jams” as everyone scrambles for an exit.
You will also need to account for the well-being of those who have difficulty following a traditional evacuation route—especially if the building has more than one level. For more information, check out this resource guide from NFPA on creating an inclusive, accessible fire evacuation plan for anyone with cognitive, mobility, visual, speech, or hearing impairments.
Prioritize these Fire Safety Tips as a New Business Owner
If you need help with equipment installation, want to schedule an inspection, or could use some more expert guidance on which fire safety protocols to establish, contact A&A Fire Protection. We are committed to eliminating fire hazards, so your new business can thrive.