6 ways to protect your business from fires

Headshot of Desiree DeNunzio
By Desiree DeNunzio
May 14, 2019
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Educate your employees about fire safety and take other steps to protect your business from the threat of a fire.
Two fire extinguishers hung on a white wall.

Fire is one of the most common causes of property damage – and it can also be one of the most costly incidents for a small business. Approximately 10% of small businesses are affected by a fire, and the average cost for a fire claim is $35,000, according to The Hartford.

Although modern safety regulations have reduced the risk, fire is still a major threat. To protect your business, it’s key to educate your employees on fire safety and emergency protocol, keep your workplace free from clutter, and properly maintain your equipment. These six fire prevention tips can help keep your business safe:

1. Inspect and maintain fire extinguishers

Keep fire extinguishers inspected and maintained according to the local fire code and train employees on how to properly use them. Many people have never operated a fire extinguisher. Basic training can save lives during a fire emergency.

2. Install a fire sprinkler or fire suppression system

All businesses should have a fire alarm system, but you should also consider installing a sprinkler system or fire suppression system – some local jurisdictions also require these systems in commercial buildings. Both help to extinguish fires before the fire department arrives. If you’re operating a restaurant, for example, you should have a UL 300-compliant wet chemical fire suppression system, and follow the NFPA 96 standard for ventilation and fire protection.

3. Regularly clean and inspect equipment

Faulty equipment is a common cause of electrical fires. Make sure your machines and equipment are in proper working order, and switch them off when they’re not in use. Clean tools and equipment regularly to ensure they’re functioning properly and safe to use.

4. Reduce clutter

Keep your workspace as clutter-free as possible. Boxes, piles of paper, and other combustible materials can provide fuel for a fire. In addition, be sure to keep electrical appliances (e.g., microwaves, toasters, coffeemakers) away from paper or other fuel sources, and give computers and other equipment plenty of space so that air can circulate around them and they’ll stay cool.

5. Have an exit strategy

Create an emergency exit plan, and practice fire drills with your employees. Make sure emergency exit doors have proper signage and are well-lit. Employees should always have ready access to at least two exits. Regularly check stairwells to ensure that nothing is blocking them.

6. Maintain outdoor spaces

Some businesses are at high risk of fire damage not because of what they do, but where they’re located. The American West is particularly vulnerable to wildfires in the summer due to an arid climate and dry vegetation. If your business is located in a dry or forested area, take steps to protect it. In areas prone to wildfires, keep trees and brush from growing next to your building, and remove dry grass that’s within 100 feet of any structure.

How small business insurance can help with fire damage

If a fire does occur at your business, small business insurance can help cover the damages.

Commercial property insurance is designed to help fund repair or replacement of damaged property (e.g., equipment, buildings, supplies, and inventory). Many property insurance policies cover fire damage. You also may want to consider a business owner's policy, or BOP, which bundles commercial property and general liability coverage into one policy, typically at a discount.

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