Fire Safety in Commercial Buildings

| 2024.02.27
Fire safety in commercial buildings

Fire hazards are no joke; as such, proper fire safety on any property is essential. Just as you would ensure there is no chance of uncontrolled fires destroying your home, your commercial buildings need the same level of concern, if not more.

While commercial insurance can help you with repair and reconstruction costs, it is your responsibility to make sure that proper fire safety measures have been taken in your commercial building. After all, your commercial property is home to all your equipment, records, tools, merchandise, and everything related to your business.

In this blog, we will be covering everything you need to know about protecting your business from unforeseeable fires. To learn more, keep reading ahead.

Commercial Building Fire Safety Measures

There are some vital elements to ensuring fire safety in commercial buildings:

1. Compliance with codes and regulations

Every region has a set of safety codes and regulations for both commercial and residential buildings, especially regarding fire safety. These are the minimum requirements for a commercial building to ensure a safe working environment for people and the building itself.

One factor worth noting is that safety codes and regulations depend on the structure of the building, how tall it is, if it is a warehouse, if there are multiple offices, strip malls, and others.

In the case of food businesses, some special considerations need to be kept in mind when it comes to fire safety. If fire-prone operations like cooking and deep-frying are involved, there must be fire suppression systems. In these situations, a Fire Alarm Control Panel must monitor them.

2. Fire alarms

The first and foremost element of fire safety in commercial buildings is fire alarms. They act as the first line of defence as they can warn employers and employees of a commercial building about a fire or even a potential fire. When a fire alarm goes off, everyone in the building must know there is a fire and leave the premises.

In your commercial building, the fire alarm should be maintained and inspected at least once a year, if not more frequently. Everyone working within the premises should know the fire safety protocols, and the company should implement a fire safety drill.

It will help the people evacuate the area in an orderly manner rather than panicking and rushing towards the exits. The local fire authorities can help you with not only the requirements of the fire alarm systems but also the best evacuation methods.

3. Fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are also part of a commercial building fire safety code. They should be mounted in easy-to-reach locations at specific intervals throughout the building. Fire extinguishers can be vital for small fires and prevent them from becoming uncontrollable.

You should also train your employees on the proper fire extinguisher procedure. Furthermore, like the fire alarm systems, you must regularly inspect them and have the correct fire extinguisher for the type of business you run.

4. Exit signs and emergency lights

Companies should place visible exit signs throughout the building. In a fire, there could be a power outage and smoke everywhere. Vision can be obscured, which means people may not find exits, so the exit signs should be placed wherever possible and lighted. The lighted exit signs need to switch to backup power if there is an electrical outage.

Similarly, emergency lights will help people navigate toward an exit, which is useful if a fire breaks out. People often panic when they don’t have clear sight of the exit. Therefore, emergency, or reflective lights should guide people out safely.

5. Fire sprinkler systems

While not possible in all commercial buildings, the fire safety code dictates that some commercial buildings require fire sprinkler systems. A fire sprinkler system is an automatic deterrent to fires within a building as it detects rising heat levels and starts spraying water. Refer to the Alberta Building Code to check for commercial sprinkler system requirements.

They can suppress or even extinguish larger and more spread-out fires. A fire sprinkler system also needs to be inspected and maintained regularly.

Commercial insurance can help you with the cost of repairing fire damage, but a fire sprinkler system, along with fire alarms, compliance with code, and proper exit signs, can help you minimize that damage.

MMI Insurance offers building ownership insurance, including coverage for loss or damage from fire.

Common Fire Safety Mistakes to Look Out For

  1. Blocked doors: Unfortunately, blocked exit doors are common in commercial spaces. These doors may be jammed or open only halfway due to wear and tear or mishandling. You should ensure that your commercial building has exit doors that work as they need to allow occupants to escape quickly in an emergency.
  2. Missing Fire Extinguishers: Many commercial buildings do not maintain or install fire extinguishers. These are highly effective tools to prevent fires from spreading, and you should ensure you follow the code for the placement and maintenance of fire extinguishers in your commercial building.
  3. Faulty Fire Alarms/Sprinkler Systems: You may be relaxed knowing that you have fire alarms and sprinkler systems in your building, however improper maintenance and testing can lead to faulty fire safety measures. Fire alarms or sprinklers could go off randomly, disrupting workflow and possibly causing damage to property and personnel.
  4. Extension Cords: Many commercial operations use extension cords, allowing occupants to get multiple electrical sockets and get ports closer to them. Often, these extension cords are constantly in use, which can make them a fire hazard over time. You should hire an electrician to install electrical outlets wherever needed and limit the use of extension cords.
  5. Improper Record Maintenance: Commercial buildings often have separate contractors for different fire safety systems, which have their own inspection and maintenance cycles. You should maintain proper records of the inspections and repairs, proving your compliance with fire safety codes. This will also be useful if you must file a commercial insurance claim.

Fire Safety in Commercial Buildings: Final Thoughts

Fire safety is key for any commercial building. Following the right code and regulations may be a major initial investment. However, it can save you from significant monetary loss in the long run and protect you in case of lawsuits. Make sure to follow all the proper fire safety practices and invest in commercial insurance for protection.

For more information about commercial insurance or coverage on fire damage, call MMI Insurance at 866‑222‑6996 or contact us here.