Fire Prevention and Safety Considerations
By: Robert Dekanski
January 16, 2020
Household and commercial fires cause billions of dollars of damage every year. Whether you're a homeowner, business owner, or both, you have an obligation to keep your property and the people in it safe from fire. Here's what you need to know.
Workplace Fire Safety
Workplace fire safety varies from one business to another, depending on the type of business and the activities that are conducted there. However, some general guidelines do apply. For example:
- Know the OSHA guidelines. Follow federal and state OSHA guidelines on your worksite; consult with OSHA if you have questions.
- Keep your building to code. Building codes change as new safety guidelines are created; keep your building to code to ensure the safety of your workers in the event of a fire.
- Conduct fire drills. People who work for your company should know what to do in the event that the building catches fire, so conduct fire drills on a regular basis.
- Maintain electrical safety. Maintain electrical appliances and the electrical system in the building; replace broken fixtures and appliances to prevent a fire.
Maintain Fire Exits
All fire exits in the building must be left unlocked and may not be obstructed by anything blocking the doors. Hallways leading to the fire exits must be left clear and uncluttered. The number of fire exits that your building must have may depend on its size, capacity and other factors. At the very least, any building is required to have at least two fire exits, and they may not be close to one another.
Sprinkler Systems and Smoke Alarm Systems
All sprinkler systems and smoke alarms must be professionally installed and must be installed to code. The type of sprinkler and smoke alarm system in your building will depend on its size, when it was built, when it was last renovated and other factors. Know the requirements for your state.
Provide Proper Training
Employees who use appliances, fixtures and devices that could potentially cause a fire must be properly trained to use those devices. Provide proper training to all new employees, and have procedures in place to ensure that knowledge is passed to all relevant parties. Use employee training manuals and other formal training procedures.
Residential Fire Safety
There are many things you can do to protect a home from fires. Including:
Have a Fire Evacuation Plan
Create a plan to exit your home from every room of your house. Go over the fire evacuation plan with other members of your family, and then practice evacuation from every room. Rooms on the second floor may need safety ladders to enable people in the house to exit from the windows in the event that a fire prevents them from leaving.
Install Adequate Smoke Alarms, Test Batteries
Install adequate smoke alarms in your home, and test the batteries on a regular basis. Every bedroom, hallway and level of your home should have a smoke alarm. Install a smoke alarm in any room with a fireplace and outside every kitchen. If the home was built recently, there's a good chance that the smoke alarms are hardwired into the structure of the home. If not, then you'll need to purchase your own smoke alarms.
Batteries in smoke alarms need to be tested and replaced on a regular basis. Test your smoke alarms quarterly. Set an alarm in your phone to remind you to do this, or mark your calendar. Batteries need to be replaced every six months. Note that even hard-wired smoke detectors have batteries that need to be replaced on a regular basis; these batteries are in place so your smoke detectors will continue to work even if your home's power goes out.
Overall Safety for Both Residential and Commercial Structures
In some ways, fire safety is the same whether you have a business or a home. The following tips will help you take care of your residential or commercial structure.
Keep the Property Clean
Clutter can cause fire danger in a variety of ways. First, clutter makes it difficult for people to leave in the event that a fire breaks out. Second, clutter becomes fuel for fire, and allows it to spread faster and makes it burn hotter. Clutter also makes it difficult for fire fighters to access the interior of a building or home, which can lead to more injuries or even deaths.
Keeping the property clean can reduce the fire hazard in a home or commercial building. If you're a business owner, put people in charge of systematically sorting through clutter, maintaining organizational systems and sorting through unneeded items.
If you're a homeowner, sort through your clutter and clean your home regularly. Hold a garage sale, give away unneeded items to charity and if you're not sure what else to do, throw away those things you no longer need.
Store Chemicals Safely
Chemicals can cause fires when they're heated or placed near other reactive chemicals. Store your chemicals safely, away from sources of heat. Avoid putting chemicals in your home or business near vehicles, tailpipes, natural gas heaters and other devices.
Get Help From the Experts
As a homeowner, manager, or a building owner, you can take care of your property by working with the fire marshal and fire safety experts in your area. Talk to your local fire department for information about how your fire department can help you with fire safety at home. Some fire departments teach free classes to homeowners, others give away smoke detectors. If you own a commercial property or business, work with your fire marshal and OSHA to ensure that your commercial property is in good condition. Fire safety saves lives and can save you thousands of dollars in fire damage repairs.