Published 01.15.24

Is Your Business Prepped for Fire Safety?

Practical Tips to Help Your Business Prep for Fire Safety. Fire safety starts with planning, preparing and training.

As you go about the daily management of your business or facility, your attention may be pulled in many directions: growth and expansion, revenue and customer satisfaction, recruitment and retention, even budget and inventory. There’s a lot to do, so preparing for fire safety may fall to the bottom of the list. If it has, now’s the time to consider taking some simple – but effective – steps that could help you protect your business in the event of a fire. 

According to the U.S. Fire Administration and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), there were 18,700 office and store fires in the United States in 2019. All told, those fires caused $744 million in direct property damage. The leading causes include cooking, electrical malfunction, heating, appliances and carelessness.

Fire safety has attracted the attention of FEMA. The agency says, “Employers need to prepare for emergencies. Make sure smoke alarms and fire sprinklers are properly installed and working. Post clear fire escape plans on every level of a building. Teach employees about exit locations, escape routes and fire protection equipment. Check the condition of fire ladders and escapes. Conduct regular emergency drills.”

The good news is that there are lots of ways you can help reduce the risk of fire, and nearly as many ways for you to help protect people and property in the event of a fire. But you’ll need to take several factors into consideration, including the size and layout of your facility, and even what – if any – OSHA or other compliance requirements your business may need to follow. 

For example, did you know that under the workers’ rights protected by OSHA, “Workers have the right to: working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm; receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.” 

With so much to keep track of, here are five things to consider as you evaluate your fire safety preparedness. 

  1. Involve your employees in planning. Workplace fires have a wide variety of causes, ranging from cooking to electrical malfunctions. Your employees can be an important part of evaluating and reducing risk. According to FEMA, “Employees can help too, by keeping their workspaces and equipment clean, dry and well ventilated. They can check for damaged or overloaded electrical outlets, cords and cables. Keep anything that can burn away from electrical equipment. Never leave portable heating devices unattended. Plan and practice escape routes, and make sure exits aren’t blocked.”

    When you involve your employees in planning for fire safety, you’re helping to educate and prepare them in the event of a fire too.  

  2. Training is key. If your workplace has portable fire extinguishers, OSHA requires you to have an educational program that familiarizes your employees with how to use them. And that may just be the starting point: you may also help reduce the risk of injury in an emergency by providing training on emergency lighting, how your company’s fire suppression system works (if you have one), or what to expect if a sprinkler system is activated. Taking the time to train your team now can help them be more comfortable and prepared in case of a fire. 

  3. Don’t wait for an emergency to prepare. Create an evacuation plan, and make sure your team understands it. “The plan should include which exits to use, and employees should be aware of the number of steps required to reach the exit in case there are visibility problems. Every establishment should have at least two exits in case one of them is blocked. If the fire alarm signals, never ignore it. Use the evacuation plan and strictly follow it. Post the evacuation plan and perform fire drills to ensure you and your staff are experts at it. Make the necessary provisions for any disabled workers and take into account how you will help any visitors present during a fire but unfamiliar with your plan,” writes the Houston Chronicle. Your evacuation plan can play an important role in helping keep everyone safe in the event of a fire. Be sure to hold practice drills so your team understands it and knows where your company’s meeting place is before a real emergency happens. 

  4. One size does not fit all. Your workplace is unique, and its fire preparedness should reflect that. A large facility may need a fire suppression system or sprinkler system. A small office may be sufficiently prepared with an evacuation plan and functional fire extinguishers. Keep in mind too that regulations may vary from state to state. There are many resources to help you start to lay the groundwork for fire safety, such as this video from Safe at Work California. Additionally, talking to an expert in fire safety like the local fire marshall, can help you not only better understand what your business needs, but also implement a successful plan to get it done. 

    You don’t have to do it alone. A great vendor in fire protection can help you navigate the details. They’ll bring the industry training and safety focus you need in order to feel confident in your fire safety prep. Their knowledge of leading and innovative fire protection service solutions can help save you time and money. They can even help with tasks like inspecting fire alarms and extinguishers, providing detailed documentation that supports your compliance, and providing information on a variety of products and training you can choose from to fit your needs. 

Small steps can help create big peace of mind. A fast-moving fire can cause major damage to a business, and the recovery can be long and costly. Move fire safety to the top of your to-do list, and help to keep your business on the list of those that are ready™ in case of emergency. 

To learn more about a free fire assessment for your facility, contact Cintas Fire Protection today.