Commercial Fire Causes & Prevention
Granted Commercial fires don’t happen as often as residential, but they are still happen more than you might think. Let’s go over some of the biggest factors to take into account about commercial fires. Hopefully these tips will help you take the appropriate measures to prevent a fire.
Common Causes of Non-Residential Fires
To better understand when your business is most at risk, and what precautions you can take to diminish that risk, let's analyze when structure fires are most likely to occur.
The time of day fires are most likely to happen depends on what type of business you're in. An office building may have different operating hours than a manufacturing plant. For example, in office buildings, fires are most common during the typical daytime work hours with the occurrence of fires peaking in the early evening hours between 3 pm - 6 pm.
Outside of the work day, between 7 pm - 7 am, fires are 31% less likely to occur. Additionally, you don’t see as many fires on weekend days when office buildings are closed.
Cooking Related Fires
1 in 4 office building fires are related to cooking equipment including microwaves. These fires tend to account for less damage, but are easily preventable with fire protection measures such as alarms and fire extinguishers.
The second most common cause of commercial fires are those that were deliberately started. They account for nearly 10% of fires, and usually cause the biggest amount of destruction. Intentional fires also result in more civilian injuries and fatalities. Different from cooking and heating fires, it's most common for purposeful fires to be started between 3 pm and midnight or during non-normal business hours.
A few common locations in your building to be aware of include:
- Trash bins
- Open areas like a lawn or field
Arson related fires don’t just affect business owners or the company, they potentially result in loss of jobs for workers. These destructive fires can easily spread to other buildings and public utilities nearby adding to the overall damage and cost of the fire.
Human Error & Negligence
9.2 % of commercial fires were accidental, and result from careless acts. A few examples of acts that result in fires are:
- Leaving space heaters or other heat generating equipment on unattended
- Improperly thrown out cigarette butts that ignite fires
- Overloading outlets and extension cords by plugging in too many things at once, and not using surge protectors
The risk of fire increases as more people are in the building using any equipment or appliances. The equipment itself is not usually the cause of the fire, but instead it is the misuse of the equipment.
Building Maintenance on Equipment - Water Heaters, Boilers, and Furnace Fires
Heating-type fires make up 9% of all nonresidential building fires. Central heating units, fireplaces, water heaters, and other heating appliances and systems should be regularly inspected to prevent fires. It's important to move any flammable materials and furniture away from heat sources, especially in the winter months when the heat is turned on. Inadequate installation and lack of maintenance on these pieces of equipment can cause a fire. Flammable materials like chemicals, paper and trash should never be stored in the same area as this equipment.
Electrical machines or systems can cause a fire, but there are often other factors that lead to the fires. When businesses employ unqualified individuals to alter electrical outlets or circuitry, it can lead to complications. Electrical code violations are often committed by unreliable builders or workers. These code violations can translate to fires in your building. Another cause of fire can be the electrical equipment itself. Equipment that is misused or overloaded can often cause fires, as well as a lack of proper maintenance or airflow.
Now that you’ve looked over some of the common causes of commercial fires, hopefully you’ve noticed something you're missing that could save you thousands of dollars in fire damage and loss. The following are a few things you can do to help protect your business in case a fire does occur.
Putting Out the Flames & Protection
- Sprinkler system - A sprinkler system can put out a potentially deadly fire. Having only 1 or 2 fire sprinkler heads can contain the majority of fires.
- Fire alarms - This may seem obvious, but fire alarms are often disregarded or left with dead batteries, or are not maintained properly. These systems are not only required, but they save lives and property from damage.
- Fire extinguishers - A fire extinguisher placed near the kitchen area can give employees the power to stop a small cooking fire from spreading. Make sure your employees are trained in proper fire extinguisher usage. It is also important to make sure that your fire extinguishers are inspected yearly, and are still in adequate working condition.
Upkeep & Testing
Now that you know the essential fire protection methods to have in place, do you know if they are well maintained and up-to-date? Are your fire extinguishers expired? Are you following the legal state requirements for having these systems tested regularly? Is your building up to code according to local and state requirements?
Put in a Commercial Alarm System
No one likes to think that there are people who would deliberately start a fire on their property. Regrettably, this is a situation that you need to be prepared for. It would be wise to Invest in a security alarm system that will spot any suspicious goings-on in the evening hours when the building and surrounding area is most at jeopardy. Keeping the area well-lit at night, or setting up motion detection lights outside, can discourage unlawful activity.
You and your employees will appreciate the feeling of safety and security.
Emergency Ready Profile Service
Consider contacting your local SERVPRO of Kitsap County franchise to have a professional come to your business and set up an Emergency Ready Program (ERP). An ERP is a comprehensive and detailed booklet of your business’ building information in the event of any type of emergency. It even includes pictures for a clear and identifiable explanation to show where important things are when an emergency or disaster occurs. This has proven to come in handy when the business owner isn’t on site, and an employee is there. That employee will have all pertinent emergency information related to the building in hand to give to the emergency responders, preventing further damage to the building and property.
Now that you have the information you need to protect your business from a devastating fire, we hope you will review your safety plan, or create one if needed. We are always here to help, so give us a call to schedule your ERP at no charge to you. You can also call us during and after a fire has occurred. We will help make sure you, and your building and property are taken care of, and brought back to its preloss condition.