Is your business fire-proof?

The impact of a fire on a business can be devastating. The loss can be enormous, from loss of equipment, premises, to injuries and fatalities. The most common causes of workplace fire include defective electrical equipment, flammable / combustible materials, smoking, negligence, human error, faulty detection alarms, cooking equipment, untidy and dirty workplaces, and arson.

Being proactive for a fire incident is more than just placing a few fire extinguishers around, it is having a proper emergency plan in place that can at least minimize the damage.

Santam compiled five tips for businesses to make sure that their commercial space is fire-ready. These are:

  1. Your insurance policy
    Nearly every major disaster serves as a reminder to business owners of the importance of reviewing their business insurance policies. Understanding the scope of cover allows them to update insurance policies before a loss happens.

Every business faces unique risks, but loss prevention strategies like these will help minimize them. Always remember, the best way to protect a business and employees from unforeseen emergencies is by preparing for them in advance.

Contact your intermediary to arrange a full risk assessment of your business premises and get the right cover in place.

  1. Have a safety programme in place
    Employees are not only a business’ greatest asset, but they are also safety programme champions. Make sure employees are well informed of fire safety protocols and procedures so that they know what to do in the event of a fire.This could include the following:
  • Regular fire drills
  • Regular testing of fire alarms, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, etc.
  • Providing safety manuals and guidelines to staff
  • Hands-on staff training to ensure a quick and effective response during a fire incident.

These measures can make all the difference between averting a crisis and suffering a substantial loss. Although this will require some investment, consider it a vital expense for the long-term success of your business.

  1. Fire detection
    Early detection means a fire can be extinguished before extensive damage occurs. That’s why it’s critical to instal fire alarms, smoke detectors and heat detectors – and test them regularly.
  2. Fire sprinkler systems
    Considered as one of the most reliable and cost-effective fire control methods, fire sprinkler systems are generally easily installed and maintained. Given that systems are professionally fitted according to prescribed standards, and all key components are fully functioning and serviced regularly, fire sprinkler systems hold a number of benefits for business owners:
  • They are designed to react promptly and automatically in the event of a fire, irrespective of the time of day, without the need for human intervention or navigating safety considerations.
  • They are designed to extinguish fire at inception, which results in significantly less heat and smoke being generated.

However, these systems are not one-size-fits-all. They must be designed specifically for the building’s occupancy, materials and processes to ensure they will be capable of extinguishing a fire. They also require annual inspections by a qualified sprinkler system contractor to make sure they are fully functional. Some insurers routinely ask for sprinkler adequacy reports and annual inspection reports.

  1. Fire separations
    The simplest way to prevent a fire from spreading between buildings is by separating them (i.e. fire breaks). Restricting fire damage to a specific area can potentially help return a business to normal as quickly as possible. For example, firewalls can be used to create separate fire areas within the same building. Firewall ratings can vary depending on the construction materials used. For instance, non-combustible firewalls made from hollow concrete blocks are common and often have a fire rating of three hours.