Fire is a hazard that can never be ruled out, no matter where you are. Sometimes all it takes to destroy a building or a property is a tiny spark. Once a fire spreads, it becomes harder to control it with every passing second. Modern firefighting methods have made it possible to control a raging fire from spreading but such fire destroys everything it comes in contact with. Your only chance to ensure the safety of your buildings and precious possessions is by extinguishing it as soon as possible. The longer you delay or employ the wrong methods to extinguish it, the more havoc it will cause.
More often than not, fire incidents can be prevented. We just need to be careful and vigilant. Many of us will have seen on media the destruction caused by forest fires. It is damage at a mass scale. A forest fire is the most difficult to control as everything in a forest catches fire. It may be very difficult to control, but it is very easy to prevent a forest fire. Unlike electrical fires, which are very unpredictable, forest fires, for the most part, are quite preventable. If you have lit a campfire before you go on your way you just have to make sure that it is completely extinguished and no spark remains. Similarly, if you are out cooking in the open or having a barbecue before you are done for the day, you need to ensure that no remnants of the fire remain. That includes the burning coals you may have used. Clearing the area of combustible materials would be a good idea before you light a fire.
Fires in enclosed areas like homes and commercial buildings are scarier because these buildings house people. The only escape in case of a fire is to get out of the building, which becomes very difficult in a lot of cases. Smoke from the fire gets trapped inside an enclosed area that disrupts your vision and breathing. Some people pass out because of asphyxiation and it can be fatal as well. A lot of countries have a well-functioning firefighting system in place. The firefighters reach a building within a few minutes but if it is a huge commercial building, even those few minutes are not enough.
Causes of Fire in Commercial Buildings
Commercial buildings are usually multistory buildings, therefore, fire spreads easily in such buildings. Some of the most common causes of fire in commercial buildings are,
- Heating Equipment: Industrial properties are at great risk of fire because of heating equipment. The reason is the presence of furnaces, radiators, and boilers. These can often be overheated resulting in fires. Restaurants, offices and healthcare facilities are also susceptible to fire incidents because of heating equipment.
- Electrical Equipment: Overloaded electrical circuits, faulty fuses, imbalance in electrical connections or loose electrical connections in a building are fire hazards. Most of the commercial buildings have electrical connections and a variety of electrical equipment, which can be a cause of the fire due to the above-mentioned reasons.
- Smoking: Even though the incidence of fires as a result of smoking or smoking materials has declined over the years but it still remains a cause of fires in buildings. Most of the buildings have smoking zones that prevent smoking-related fires to a great extent. However, a little carelessness can be the cause of a fire in a huge building.
- Cooking: It has been reported that buildings that house healthcare units are most susceptible to cooking-related fire incidents. Cooking employs a lot of flammable materials like oil and grease and once they catch fire, it can cause a lot of damage. Commercial buildings housing restaurants and offices also report cooking-related fire incidents.
- Intentional fire setting: The world is not really a perfect place and not everything bad that happens is accidental. Sometimes, the fire in a building is also intentional. Intentional fires are categorized as arson. It is when someone deliberately starts a fire to cause damage to life and property out of malice.
Most of the fire incidents are because of human error. A life without human error is not possible. It can be prevented to a large extent but a fire threat cannot ever be completely ruled out. Therefore, buildings need to be built in such a way that a safe way is available to counter the fire and also to escape from it. Once you have identified the causes, you can design buildings in a specific way and have emergency measures in place that in case there is a fire, the damages are minimized. Compiled below are fire safety tips for commercial buildings.
Prevention is always better than cure. No matter in which capacity you are using a commercial property, you should educate yourself and your employees regarding fire safety. You can contact your local fire protection service department and arrange sessions on creating awareness about fire hazards and the steps one should take in case there is a fire. Every person in the building should know about the escape route and it should be ensured that no place in that route is blocked. Everyone must be aware of the contact number of the fire department and should let them know as soon as possible. In a fire incident in a commercial building, it is smoke that is more dangerous than the fire itself. People should be aware of the steps that must be taken to prevent the smoke from entering a room. If there are any outlets, they should be opened to let out the smoke.
Small fires can be extinguished with a rug or a large piece of cloth. People should be made aware of such tips in case a section of the building does not have a fire extinguisher. One should not panic in case of a fire; it can trap you when you should be thinking of getting out. Your first priority must always be to look for a way out, if that is not imminently possible then you should try to find a safe spot. Do not try to save things. Your life is more important than anything else you are trying to save. Anyone who is working in a commercial building must be aware of all these basic tips in case of a fire.
Fire Detection System
Technology has become a savior in the domain of fire safety as well. There are a number of companies out there that are providing gadgets like a fire detection system. These come in the form of smoke detectors and fire alarms. Some of the smoke detectors are so sensitive that a little smoke will cause the alarm to go off. Buildings that have such a detection system in place make the inhabitants go through a drill in case there is a fire alarm. Everyone is required to get out of the building as soon as they hear the alarm. Buildings, where cooking is a norm like restaurants, do not prefer to have smoke alarms. Even a little smoke will cause the alarm to go off, leading to unnecessary trouble for a lot of people. It may be inconvenient to have a fire detection system in such places but they should not entirely write it off. The smoke alarms can be adjusted with a threshold and will only sound alarm when the smoke in the cooking area is more than normal.
Every commercial building should have a fire detection system in place. The smoke sensitive sensors are integral in not only saving lives but also saving valuable property. The fire alarms in a lot of cases are connected to the local fire department whose personnel reach the place of incident in a matter of minutes. These sensors should be checked periodically as faulty sensors can be the cause of huge damage.
No commercial building should be constructed without any emergency escape. Elevators can stop working due to possible power breakdown as a result of a fire. Most commercial buildings have a fire exit but one problem that can be encountered in the fire escape route is its usage as a storage space. It should be kept clear at all times and everyone in the building must know of the fire exit. If you are not trained in fire fighting, do not stay in the building and immediately make way towards the fire exit. Do not brush off a tiny fire and stay in the building. A fire always starts with a tiny spark and can spread within minutes; therefore do not waste a moment in going towards the emergency escape. Avoid pushing and shoving and calmly go through the route in a queue.
Most of the fires in commercial buildings are due to faults in electrical connections. A tiny spark in a loose electrical connection can lead to a huge fire. There is a number of electrical equipment in a building in addition to the wiring. Some equipment can be overheated leading to sparking or it could be that a faulty fuse can cause sparking and resultantly a fire. The electrical connections in buildings must be regularly checked to prevent such a scenario. Furthermore, users of any equipment must be vigilant when it is in use. They should plug it out in case it is overheating. The equipment should be checked if it is not a normal scenario. The equipment users must thoroughly read the manual before using it so any untoward incident can be prevented.
Electrical fires are very common in commercial buildings. People must exercise extra caution when it comes to electrical equipment. The vents of the electrical equipment must not be covered as blocking the air is the major cause of overheating. If anyone detects any electrical fault, it should be addressed immediately instead of waiting until you complete your task.
Fire Extinguishing System
The modern-day innovation of sprinklers is a great addition to the fire extinguishing system. The fire extinguishers, though useful, can only be used for one specific place at a time. Moreover, they have to be operated manually. You may miss the target area and in many cases, there are not sufficient fire extinguishers in a single space in case of a fire over a large area. Fire sprinklers solve this problem. The sprinklers are connected to the smoke sensors. As soon as the sensors detect smoke, the sprinklers placed strategically in a room are switched on. These sprinklers can effectively manage small fires, preventing major disasters. Commercial buildings would benefit greatly from having such a fire extinguishing system in place.
Smoking outside of smoking zones should be strictly prohibited. The smoking zones themselves should be carefully monitored as a little carelessness can start a fire. Many commercial buildings have a no smoke policy that everyone has to follow. That is another way to deal with the problem. In the smoking zones as well it should be ensured that any smoking material is properly disposed of, eliminating any possibility of a fire.
The buildings should not be cluttered. Clutter includes discarded paper and boxes, things not in their proper order such as chairs, desks, equipment, plant pots, etc. Clutter makes it difficult to make an emergency escape and includes combustible material as well. This is a danger that can be easily avoided by keeping the building in order.
Disposing Combustible Material
The combustible material in the building should be properly disposed of. If there is some flammable material, try to keep it away from your building. It may not be a choice in some cases, so one should be careful in such a scenario. Materials such as oil cans or insect repellent spray cans should be disposed of properly. When in use, they must be kept in a place where the danger of fire is the least likely.
The Final Verdict
As mentioned above, no one can completely rule out the chances of a fire, but these calamities can be prevented and controlled to a large extent if we follow the proper safety protocols. The safety tips mentioned above are instrumental in keeping your commercial building safe from fire and also in minimizing the damage in case of a fire.