Depending on the nature of your business, it’s possible that a fire could be so expensive and disruptive that your business could not recover from it. It may not be the highest threat on your risk assessment chart, but it’s something you need to acknowledge and prepare for.
What are the best ways to mitigate the risk of a fire?
The Costs and Consequences of a Fire at Your Place of Business
First, let’s cover the costs and consequences of a business fire.
· Direct harm. A fire in your business could directly harm, or even kill your employees and customers. Practicing more proactive, more thorough fire safety has the potential to save lives.
· Repair and reconstruction. Even if you have a good fire insurance policy, repair and reconstruction costs can be prohibitive. You may also see increases in your insurance premiums after the fire.
· Loss of inventory/equipment. On top of that, you’ll have the potential to lose your inventory and equipment. If you have the wrong type of fire suppression system in place, it can even make the damage worse.
· Business interruptions. During and after the fire, your business will be significantly interrupted. In some cases, your business could be down for days, or even weeks.
· Customer loss and reputation damage. If you fail to handle the fire in a reasonable manner, it could significantly damage your reputation as a business. This, in turn, could lead to customer loss.
How to Mitigate Fire Risk
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can mitigate the risk of a fire in your business.
· Identify, eliminate, and mitigate hazards. If you want to be prudent about fire safety, you need to identify your biggest fire hazards. What are the pieces of equipment, systems, or areas that are most prone to fire? What types of fire are most likely to affect your business? The overwhelming majority of business fires start in the kitchen, or as a direct result of irresponsible use of equipment like torches. If you can eliminate any fire hazards, do so. If you can’t eliminate them, try to mitigate them, such as by isolating them, by deploying more protective materials, or by only allowing these hazards to be used and managed by properly trained individuals.
· Upgrade and maintain your electrical systems. Electrical fires are common in business, so consider upgrading and maintaining your electrical systems more attentively. If your building is full of old electrical wiring, it might be time to replace it. Otherwise, make sure all your electrical systems are being used responsibly.
· Invest in an automatic fire suppression system. An automatic fire suppression system will deploy a fire suppression agent if a fire is detected. It’s a great way to respond to a fire immediately, mitigating potential damage and harm. And with modern, modular systems, you won’t have to completely overhaul your internal systems to install one.
· Install fire extinguishers. In addition to a fire suppression system, it’s a good idea to have fire extinguishers available throughout the premises. Just make sure you’re purchasing the correct type of fire extinguisher; not all fires can be safely extinguished with the same types of extinguishing agents.
· Install security cameras. About 11.2 percent of office and store fires are intentional. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have security cameras in place. If you have active monitoring, you may be able to catch potential arsonists in the act and stop them from spreading a fire. And even if you don’t stop the perpetrator, you may be able to identify them and hold them responsible later.
· Use alarms. Loud fire alarms are an absolute must. With both automatic and manual triggers, the entire building should know immediately that a fire has broken out, giving everyone in the building plenty of time to escape.
· Have emergency escape plans. No matter what, your business needs to have emergency escape plans in place. Where are the emergency exits? Are they unobstructed at all times? Do your employees know where to go if a fire does break out?
· Educate and train your employees. Next, educate and train your employees. Don’t assume they know anything about fire safety; teach them all the basics, including the importance of “stop, drop, and roll.”
· Drill often. Conduct periodic fire drills to test employees’ knowledge and reaction times. If you notice any flaws or holes in your fire response plan, this is the time to acknowledge them and fix them.
It’s true that a sufficiently destructive fire could completely eradicate your business. But it doesn’t have to. With the right preventative and proactive strategies, you can eliminate the risk of most types of fire and position your business to respond adequately if a fire does break out.