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Fire Safety and Sprinklers

With fire remaining one of the leading causes of business disasters, companies of all sizes have to develop fire prevention and safety programs designed to reduce the risk and plan an effective response if a fire occurs.

The first and most important step in promoting fire safety in your small business is taking active measures to reduce fire-related risks. An effective fire prevention strategy combines safe materials handling, workplace design and safety equipment (such as smoke detectors, extinguishers and perhaps sprinklers) to provide several layers of defense against fire-related risks.

Fire prevention and safety experts recommend small businesses explore the following options:

  • Inspect your workplace and any storage facilities for fire safety, and ensure your facilities comply with applicable local fire regulations and building codes.
  • Check electrical equipment on a consistent basis to look for worn cords, excessive operating temperatures, or other signs of potential fire danger.
  • Understand if your company uses any hazardous or combustible materials in its daily operations, and be sure any materials that can produce fire or flammable vapors are stored in appropriate containers or cabinets.
  • Promote safe housekeeping practices in employee workspaces to be sure papers, wooden pallets, sawdust and other potentially flammable materials don't pile up and present hazards.

Safety Equipment

Effective fire prevention practices should be backed up by safety equipment designed to help employees evacuate your workspace and to extinguish a fire quickly.

Smoke detectors, for example, provide a critical early warning if a smoke condition exist in your company's facilities. Commercial smoke detectors should sound an audible alarm and trigger strobe lighting to warn employees, and should be connected to a central monitoring service so fire authorities can be notified quickly.

Fire extinguishers can also provide a critical delay in the severity of the emerging fire. Be sure fire extinguishers are placed in several easily accessible locations, and are matched to the type of fire most likely to occur in a specific area. Sending team members to your local fire department for training in the safe operation of those extinguishers is another good idea.

Depending on the size of your facility and the materials you handle, automatic sprinklers can be another effective defensive measure against fire risks. You should enlist professional assistance with the design, installation and maintenance of an automatic sprinkler system.

Employee Planning

Another important aspect in promoting fire safety is planning how employees would respond to a fire alarm, including how they would evacuate your facility quickly and safely.

In addition to installing and testing fire alarms, it's also a good idea to collaborate with an insurance company lost control specialist or fire safety engineer to develop an evacuation plan for your facility.

Your workplace should have several potential fire exits, for example, and each one should be marked with an illuminated exit sign.

Your evacuation plan should also include a designated meeting place outside of your facility so you for supervisors can take attendance and make sure everyone has left the workplace safely.

You should conduct fire drills several times a year so employees understand where they should go if a fire alarm sounds, and to help reduce the potential for panic if your small business experiences a fire emergency.