Is Your Business Organized to Avoid This Ultimate Physical Threat: Fire?
Fire Avoidance and Code Compliance: Expert Tips and More
Is there anything more devasting to a business than a fire?
Perhaps, but few physical threats to your operation are more likely to occur—or happen more frequently—than fires, which account for more than 5,000 injuries annually according to MCR Safety.
To help your enterprise business from becoming a statistic, we consulted with Jesse Alba, former fire chief with three decades of experience. We asked the questions and here’s what he had to say.
Is there a fire code safety 101 or checklist for enterprise businesses?
Your local fire department is a great resource for information about making your business safer and preparing for emergencies.
In addition, there are several online resources you can look to, including the United States Fire Administration, the National Fire Protection Agency, the International Fire Code and the International Building Code.
How does a business know what fire safety codes to comply with?
Typically, businesses are required to have an occupancy permit or inspection before occupying a structure.
The particulars are based on the community the business is in and what fire code that community uses—either the International Fire Code or the National Fire Protection Agency Code. In addition, a business insurance carrier may also have fire protection system requirements as a component of their policy.
Should a business just wait for inspections, or can it be proactive?
A business should be proactive in learning what type of fire protection systems and practices apply to them.
Reaching out to the community's fire department, community development, or inspection department is a great way to ensure that your business provides a safe environment for employees and customers.
What are the risks of not complying?
First and foremost is the loss of life or injury by fire—there were 3,800 fire deaths in 2021 and over $15 billion in property loss. According to the NFPA, non-residential fires accounted for only about 125,000 (9%) of total fires in the US, but $3.5 billion (22%) in the total property loss in 2021, so it's in the business’s best interest to protect their assets by adhering to their local fire code.
Non-compliance can also lead to fines and unrecovered losses as a result of not meeting insurance requirements.
Any other insights you can add?
Often a business or property owner cringes at the cost of fire protection systems like smoke detectors, sprinkler systems or emergency equipment like exit lights and extinguishers, but these investments pale in comparison to the loss of the life of our co-workers, customers, and neighbors.
Often a fire that is kept in check by a single sprinkler head or a quick blast of an extinguisher provides an exponential return on investment and keeps businesses in business.
A Case Study In Prevention
This case study about a company that invested in a sprinkler system emphasizes Alba’s point about an exponential return on investment.
The company, Kujawa Enterprises, Inc., caters to the year-round landscaping needs of Fortune 500 businesses and experienced what could have been a catastrophic fire in July of 2019.
Instead, a sprinkler system the company invested in earlier kicked in, mitigating the effects of the flames until the fire department arrived. This allowed the business to continue operating without interruptions avoiding a significant hit to the company’s bottom line.
Furthermore, fire authorities agreed that had the company not invested in sprinklers, the fire would have resulted in a total loss of the facility at a cost of millions—making the return on investment even more significant.
Fire doesn’t discriminate when it comes to enterprise businesses. No matter the industry, specialty, or sector you serve the threat is real, and mitigating it is a challenge for every business owner.
Fortunately, there are systems in place to protect your business that can be leveraged by being proactive and embracing the idea of prevention—along with the costs associated with it.