A fire at your business could be catastrophic.
Fire threatens everything it touches, from loss of materials to loss of life. According to the US Fire Administration, there were over 1.2 million fires in the US in 2019, resulting in nearly 4,000 deaths and causing 14.8 million in damage.
How can you protect your business and employees against the risks of fire? We’re going to break down everything you need to know, from where to place smoke detectors to choosing the right fire sprinkler system. While our team focuses primarily on sprinkler systems, it’s important understand how all your fire safety tools benefit your comprehensive fire safety plan:
Choosing Fire Protection Equipment
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has minimum requirements that all businesses must meet. These include:
- Fire exits
- Portable fire extinguishers
- Fire prevention measures, such as smoke detectors
- Fire suppression and sprinkler systems
We break down what you need to know about these requirements below.
Walls and Stairways: Smoke Detectors
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, business owners should install smoke detectors on every business level. From where to place smoke detectors to connecting smoke alarms, they’ve shared lots of valuable advice:
- Installation sites: there should be a smoke alarm in all well-trafficked areas of your business, as well as near stairways to upper levels.
- Subterranean sites: install smoke alarms on the ceiling near the bottom of the stairs leading to the next level.
- Pitched ceilings: install alarms within three feet of the peak of the ceiling but not within the peak’s apex (four inches down from the peak).
- Prioritize height: mount smoke alarms high on the walls, no more than 12 inches from the ceiling.
- Watch for a draft: don’t install alarms near ducts, windows, doors or drafty areas where excessive airflow could interfere with their efficacy.
- Connect smoke alarms: when smoke alarms are interconnected, one alarm triggers all alarms in the building. Consider interconnecting smoke alarms for the safest, most effective protection for your business.
Regular Travel Paths: Portable Fire Extinguishers
Where should you place a fire extinguisher? In the same way you placed a smoke detector, depending on the building and the fire hazards available. The NFPA published a guide on portable fire extinguisher placement. Their best tips?
- Placement: place fire extinguishers along regular travel paths, so employees evacuating the building can easily use them in case of an emergency. Choose visible places where the extinguisher doesn’t obstruct an evacuation path.
- Height: install a fire extinguisher no lower than four inches from the ground and no higher than four feet from the ground. Mount extinguishers heavier than 40 lbs no higher than three feet six inches from the ground. However, prioritize utility when hanging your fire extinguisher, and aim to install it at waist height.
- Hangers and cabinets: when installing a fire extinguisher off the ground, you’ll need to use a hanger. Some businesses choose to install a fire extinguisher in a dedicated cabinet. If you decide to do this, make sure signage is clear and conduct a safety meeting with staff.
Ceilings and Warehouses: Fire Suppression Systems
A fire sprinkler system could save the lives of your employees. According to NFPA data from 2010-2014, sprinklers effectively controlled 96 percent of fires, and firefighter injury was 67 percent lower in fire situations where sprinklers were activated.
There are four main types of fire sprinkler systems used in businesses. We break them down in our recent blog post:
- Wet pipe sprinkler systems: this is the most popular sprinkler system and is used commonly in schools and office buildings. Water stays in the pipes and is released when the sprinkler system is triggered.
- Dry pipe sprinkler systems: this type of system is common in unheated (or irregularly heated) areas, such as warehouses, garages, and attic spaces. Water doesn’t stay in the pipes, which means that freeze risk is next to zero.
- Pre-action sprinkler systems: this type of system is perfect for server rooms, museums, and data farms. The pre-action system requires a two-step authentication to trigger, preventing accidental activations.
- Deluge sprinkler systems: this system is perfect for highly combustible environments, as it will flood the area in a matter of minutes.
Ensuring your building is protected against fire is serious business. While these guidelines are a fantastic way to get started, we know that every building is different. A fire safety professional will assess your business and give concrete advice on everything – from where to place smoke detectors to determining (and adding) fire exits. To keep your employees safe, contact a member of our team for a complete fire safety audit today.