Preparing your business (and employees) for a fire

3 minute read

A perfect example of an emergency every business should be prepared for is a fire — they rarely occur but their effects can be devastating. Being ready for one involves more than just having fire extinguishers around (although, that’s a good start.)

To help ensure you’re prepared for this type of emergency, there are two objectives to focus on: prevention and preparedness. This way, you know you’ve done everything in your power to prevent a fire, but you also have a plan in place should one occur.

Here are some other things you can do to prepare for a fire-related emergency:

  • Work together: When creating a fire evacuation plan, contact your local fire department first. Chances are, they already have some guidelines in place which you can build on.
  • Choose evacuation points and routes carefully: Evacuation points and routes vary greatly based on building size, number of employees, and your building’s location. That being said, these general guidelines are a good starting point:
    • Make sure there a multiple routes to relieve congestion.
    • Assembly points shouldn’t be in high traffic areas (like busy intersections).
    • Make sure assembly points are far enough from the building (this will depend on building height).
  • Put up signs: Every exit should have a sign showing the evacuation route for that particular area.
  • Let employees know: Whenever you update your fire evacuation routes or before you host a mock fire drill, make sure employees are informed.
  • Assign fire wardens: These are employees who have been trained on building protocol and evacuation procedures. Your local fire department can recommend how many you should have. Make sure you emphasize that fire wardens are intended to be knowledgeable helpers, not people who should risk their lives in the event of an actual fire.
  • Make a list: Make a note of all employees who are pregnant, who have recently been operated on, or who have disabilities. Update it at least every six months and provide a copy to the fire department.
  • Special events: If there are special events going on in your business’ area which close streets or increase foot traffic, be sure to re-evaluate assembly points and evacuation procedures.

Having a plan in place should a fire occur is vital, but it’s also important to take steps to prevent the emergency from happening in the first place. Below are some general fire prevention tips:

  • Make sure there are enough fire extinguishers in your building, especially in kitchens or areas with lots of electronics.
  • Ensure you and your employees know how your fire suppression system works. Regular maintenance is important to make sure it will work in the event of a fire.
  • Store any power cords away from heat, water, and oil, as they can be damaged. Never let vehicles pass over unprotected power cords.
  • Don’t use nails or staples to secure power cords to walls or floors. They can cause damage to the cord and cause fire or shock hazards. Use tape when securing cords when necessary.
  • Don’t use extension cords as a permanent solution. They’re designed for temporary use.
  • Before using any tools, power cords, and electrical fittings, be sure to inspect them for damage or wear. If an issue is discovered, repair or replace the equipment before operating it again.
  • Ensure any heating equipment (e.g. wood stoves, ovens, deep fryers, etc.) is installed and maintained by a qualified technician.
  • Regularly clean your equipment. It’s one of the best ways to keep air flowing and heat dissipating.
  • Staircases and fire brigade access routes should be clear and never used for storage or parking. Do not prop or wedge-open fire doors, as they’re designed to prevent the spread of fire between building areas.

Ensure you’re covered

Even after taking all of the necessary precautions to help prevent a fire, sometimes things can still go wrong. And while having a plan in place to deal with the emergency is important, insurance can help deal with the aftermath of such an event. Visit our business insurance page to learn more about how insurance can help you and your bottom line.