Fire Prevention Week 2015: Protect Your Business

Beep, beep beep! Riiiiiing! Ruuuurrrr!

Are your business’s fire alarms working correctly and is your prevention plan up to date?

If not, it’s Fire Prevention Week (from October 4 – 11), so there’s no time like the present to find out.

Even with modern prevention measures, fires still cause huge losses and large numbers of casualties every year. In 2014 alone:

  • 494,000 out of 1,298,000 reported fires were structure fires

    • That means a structure fire was reported every 64 seconds
  • More than 3,000 people died and nearly 16,000 people were injured 
  • Property damage totaled nearly $10 billion1

That’s why Fire Prevention Week is always worth observing and a great time to revisit your fire prevention plan. Whether or not you hold regular fire drills and update your plan, here are a couple of things you can do this week to help keep your business safe.

Hear the Beep
The theme of Fire Prevention Week 2015 is “hear the beep where you sleep: every bedroom needs a working smoke alarm.” 

For businesses, a good takeaway is simply to hear the beep: test your alarm system or individual smoke detectors to make sure they are still operating correctly. According to OSHA guidelines, non-supervised alarms should be tested every two months, and supervised systems test annually, so add a reminder to your calendar if you haven’t been testing regularly.2 

Businesses don’t necessarily need smoke detectors in every room, but it can’t hurt. OSHA requires that the number, location and spacing of devices should be based on expert recommendations. The OSHA standard 1910.164(F) states: 

The employer shall assure that the number, spacing and location of fire detectors is based upon design data obtained from field experience, or tests, engineering surveys, the manufacturer's recommendations, or a recognized testing laboratory listing.3

Update Your Fire Prevention Plan
If your business employs more than 10 people, then you know that OSHA requires that you have a written fire prevention plan in place. Since workplace configurations change and people change positions and come and go, it’s also important to review your plan regularly to make sure it’s keeping up with your business.

For many types of businesses, OSHA’s Small Business Handbook is a helpful starting point for important things to consider when you revisit your plan. For example, OSHA’s scope for fire prevention includes the following:

  • Extinguishers
  • Alarms
  • Sprinklers
  • Smoking rules
  • Exits
  • Personnel assigned
  • Separation of flammable materials and dangerous operations
  • Explosion-proof fixtures in hazardous locations
  • Waste disposal and training of personnel3

Make Sure Your Emergency Action Plan is Current

In addition to a fire prevention plan, an up-to-date emergency action plan is essential for coordinating the right actions by employees during a fire or other emergency to help limit confusion, injuries and damages. 

If you don’t have a plan in place to revisit, OSHA offers a system for helping most types of small and medium size organizations create a workable action plan.4 For most types of businesses, plan simple plan development shouldn’t take much more than 15 minutes, so it’s well worth the time.

Protect Your Business

When a fire breaks out in a business or office environment, it not only endangers peoples’ lives, it often leads to significant business interruption. Soot and smoke in burned areas are only a part of the cleanup challenge. Water used to extinguish the fire can work its way into other parts of your building, for example. So cleanup can get quite involved, depending on the impacted areas. In other words, good fire prevention strategies and quick responses are a tiny investment compared to the headaches you may have to deal with if you are unprepared for fire. So set aside some time during Fire Prevention Week to make sure your business is ready. 

Resources: 
1 Fires In The U.S., National Fire Protection Association.
2 Fire Protection: Employee Alarm Systems, Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
3 Small Business Handbook, Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
4 Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool, Occupational Safety & Health Administration.