Losses as a result of fire damage put a big dent into business operations every year.
U.S. fires resulted in an estimated $11.6 billion in direct property loss during 2014, according to the National Fire Protection Association. On average, a civilian fire death occurred somewhere in the country every two hours and 41 minutes.
There are a number of steps businesses can take to avoid becoming another fire-loss statistic, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce. These steps are centered around four main themes
Create a fire safety plan
It’s important that businesses have in place a fire safety plan that is reviewed annually. This plan will help employees identify actions that need to be taken to help prevent a fire. This plan should include:
- designating an outdoor central meeting place that is well-marked;
- establishing a process by which employees who are trained to use fire extinguishers are trained annually; and
- acquainting the local fire department with your facility, its location and potential specific hazards.
Keeping a tidy workplace environment can also help support the fire protection cause. Employees and employers should:
- keep personal workspaces clean;
- check heating units at least annually;
- empty waste containers daily;
- turn off non-essential electrical equipment at the end of each day;
- ensure extension cords are the correct size and used for portable equipment only; and
- check electrical outlets regularly to ensure they are not overloaded.
Workplace materials must be stored safely. This can be accomplished by:
- keeping combustible materials at least 3 feet away from heat sources;
- disposing hazardous materials properly; and
- maintaining at least 24 inches between the top of a stack of materials and the ceiling.
If fire does occur, it’s important to be prepared. Some fire protection tips include:
- clearly marking all exit doors and removing any potential obstructions from the door;
- allowing exit doors to be opened from the direction of exit traffic without the use of a key or any special knowledge or effort;
- mounting fire extinguishers in accessible and identified locations;
- keeping a space of at least 18 inches below sprinkler heads and checking the sprinklers annually;
- testing emergency lighting every month; and
- keeping doors closed when rooms are not occupied (closed doors can act as a barrier to smoke and fire).
In addition, it’s important to keep in mind what should be done to escape a fire:
- If you see smoke, try another way to escape. If you have to escape through smoke, stay close to the floor.
- Check doorknobs and the space between the door and frame with the back of your hand before opening closed doors. If it is cool, open the door slowly but be ready to quickly close the door if smoke comes through.
- Elevators should not be used during a fire.
- Once you're out, STAY OUT. If someone else is trapped inside, tell the Fire Department. Fire gasses in the building are toxic and can kill.