A fire can be devastating to a business in many ways. Not only can it cause injury and possibly death, but it can cause extended downtime resulting in a loss of revenue. Even the smallest fire can result in extensive property damage costs. In fact, depending on the type of facility, property damage costs can range from $8,000 to $128,000.

More than 75 percent of companies that experience a serious fire go out of business, either directly as a result of the fire or within 3 years of reopening. The damage that a fire can cause should not be underestimated. Follow these tips to reduce the risks of fire and take steps toward reducing property damage if a fire does occur:

1. Fire Prevention
Always be proactive when it comes to preventing a fire. Clean and reduce clutter in your office space by removing materials that could provide fuel for a fire. This could include stacks of paper, newspapers, rags or other combustible materials. Don’t allow employees to burn candles or use space heaters.

It’s also important to work with a life safety vendor to ensure that your facility is safe, protected and compliant. All businesses should have a certified professional perform a fire hazard analysis to asses the fire risks in your building and provide actionable solutions.

2. Fire Alarm & Extinguishers
If a fire does happen, a properly installed and working fire alarm system will quickly notify employees and the proper authorities. Make sure that these systems are inspected and maintained to ensure proper operation and compliance with fire codes. It’s also important to train your employees on how the fire alarm system works and how to manually activate it if ever necessary.

Fire extinguishers should be installed in accordance with local, state and national laws and regulations. Make sure they’re properly tagged and inspected to ensure that they’re in working condition should they need to be used. Fire extinguishers are no good if your employees don’t know how to use them, so make sure they are trained by a professional on how to operate the extinguisher.

3. Fire Sprinkler & Fire Suppression Systems
If a fire can’t be put out safely with a fire extinguisher, a fire sprinkler or fire suppression system is the next line of defense in a building’s fire system. If a fire should occur, a sprinkler or suppression system will begin to put out the fire until the authorities arrive. It’s important to follow all regulations in regard to not only installing sprinkler and suppression systems, but also inspecting them.

For sensitive environments where a wet fire sprinkler system could be damaging, like in a server room, a dry fire suppression system may suffice. A fire and life safety expert can help you determine which system is best for your business.

4. Routine Service, Inspection & Training
It’s important to ensure your fire and life safety systems are serviced and inspected for the wellbeing of your employees. A fire sprinkler system or fire extinguisher is only effective if it’s in proper working condition. If you’re unsure of local and state regulations, or don’t know if your systems have been properly maintained, contact a fire and life safety professional for a free onsite hazard analysis.

5. Do Your Research
Make sure you’ve partnered with a reputable life safety company. Not all life safety vendors are created equal, and when you’re counting on a business to protect your most valuable assets, you want to make sure you partner with the best. See below for some great questions to ask your vendor to ensure they are a reputable company capable of protecting your business from the devastation of fire and theft.

  • How long have you been in business?
  • What are your certifications?
  • Have you received hands-on training on the specific makes and models of equipment in my facility?
  • What are the steps you take when performing the various inspections?
  • Are your technicians fully insured and bonded?

It’s imperative to have a plan in place when it comes to protecting your business from a fire. Life safety experts can help you formulate that plan, and provide the necessary tools to carry out the plan if needed. No matter how small or large your business may be, a fire can be a huge blow to operations that will impact your bottom line.

Jeff Wyatt is president, Koorsen Fire & Security.