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Avoiding Fires in Commercial Properties

By Nina Terenzi, Apr. 13, 2022
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Avoiding Fires in Commercial Properties

Fire is reported as one of the most common business claims and can result in costly repairs and a crippling loss of revenue. Having the right practices and protocols in place not only reduces the risk of fire but can save lives. Fire safety should be a primary concern for all business owners, whether they operate an automobile franchise, a law office, or a bodega. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates workplace fire safety standards so property owners should keep a sharp focus on its mandates, updates, and recommendations. Beyond OSHA, the following best practices can help commercial property owners create and maintain spaces that are safer for employees and patrons alike.

Evacuation strategy. Commercial spaces that are even occasionally occupied by people are required by OSHA to have and communicate a formal evacuation strategy. Strategically mounted posters and exit signs that incorporate universally understood graphics can provide lifesaving directions at-a-glance.

Alarms, extinguishers, and sprinklers. Having the right equipment on hand can mean the difference between managed damage and catastrophic loss. Functioning alarms are a crucial and recognizable life-saving tool. In the hands of a trained employee an extinguisher can halt a fire at its source. Sprinklers can minimize and contain damage until firefighters arrive to neutralize the threat.

Equipment training and maintenance. Make sure that alarms, extinguishers, and sprinklers are strategically located, up to the latest codes, and in good working condition. It’s equally important to train employees about equipment usage so they are prepared to protect themselves and their colleagues during an emergency.

Fire drills. Most employees in commercial spaces are preoccupied with managing day-to-day business operations not actively thinking about evacuation protocols. Yet in the unlikely event of a fire emergency, it is critical that everyone have instant recall of where to go, what to do, and how to behave once they arrive at an agreed upon safe place. Conducting quarterly or monthly fire drills keeps the evacuation strategy top-of-mind for all.

Declutter and remove debris. Haphazardly stored or discarded paper, cardboard, or any other flammable material represents a fire hazard. Create systems for the orderly maintenance of all combustible material. Do not allow material or trash to accumulate in cans around desks, in common spaces, elevators, supply closets, or stairwells.

Toxic chemicals. Whether part of a business plan or part of a commercial property’s cleaning protocol, any toxic chemicals retained onsite must be clearly labeled, safely stored, and kept away from any potential source of combustion. Mishandled chemicals may be flammable but also may be harmful or even fatal if touched, inhaled, or swallowed and should never be used by untrained employees.

Carefully consider flames, flashes, and explosions. Candles at a wedding, grills on a show room floor, pyrotechnics at a rock and roll club—there are many reasons why flames and flashes may be employed onsite at a commercial enterprise. Business and property owners must carefully weigh the value of permitting such activities with the potential risks. Should the perceived benefits outweigh the safety concerns then stringent safety protocols must be established and maintained.

Review your insurance coverage. When it comes to avoiding fires in commercial properties, property owners have unique responsibilities. National, state, and local regulations, codes, and best safety practices are constantly evolving to meet current social and market demands. When was the last time you reviewed fire safety within your own business policy? If it’s been a year or two, consider contacting an Eastern agent today. A quick review with one of our professionals can help you feel confident that you have a modern policy that aligns with contemporary standards and your long-term business goals.

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