Few business owners enjoy spending time thinking about the various disasters that could impact daily operations. However, failure to do so can cost you — it could even result in closed doors.
It pays to prepare for the unexpected. You might not be able to prevent a disaster, but you can mitigate the effect on your operations and staff. Here are five things you need to know about managing a fire in the workplace.
1. Start With Your Design
You probably know that the age of your structure impacts your fire risk. With older buildings, you must rely on trained inspectors to identify and eliminate threats like bad wiring. Please perform your due diligence before renting a new space to avoid future heartbreak.
If you are starting from scratch, carefully consider your building materials. For example, hempcrete recently received a perfect performance rating in fire-resistance testing. It’s also a sustainable material that could help you achieve LEED certification and advertise your eco-consciousness to your customers.
Regardless of whether your building is old or new, position your most expensive and delicate equipment far from windows and doors, preferably in a fireproof area. Some fire trucks pump out water at a rate of 1500 gallons per minute or more — enough to destroy servers and copiers. Paperwork containing proprietary secrets or personally identifiable client information belongs in fire-resistance cabinets.
2. Rehearse Safety Protocols
Remember the days of fire drills when you were in school? If you thought they were behind you, please think again. OSHA requires employers to provide a written emergency action plan for any organization with more than ten employees.
However, it isn’t enough to write this document and stick it in a desk drawer. It should become an integral part of your employee handbook. Furthermore, you should post procedures and escape routes prominently around your facility.
If you run a large business, create a safety committee consisting of members from all departments. They should develop evacuation procedures and a policy for educating incoming team members. Have a drill every three months after the initial training period so that all recruits, old and new, refresh their memory of who to contact and what to do should disaster strike.
Please pay attention to staff members with disabilities. People with respiratory issues benefit from breathing apparatus near their workstations. You can partner people with mobility issues with someone they can turn to for help in an emergency.
3. Keep Emergency Supplies On-Hand
Minor fires, such as one set by knocking over a candle over some paperwork, might not do much damage at all — if you can put them out before they spread. For that, you need an extinguisher on hand and staff members trained in how to use it. Please make such procedures a part of your drills.
You also should keep basic first aid supplies on hand to provide care until responders arrive. Depending on where you live, your state might require you to keep an AED device on the premises if smoke or panic causes a cardiac emergency in one of your staff members or customers. Please review the applicable law to ensure you remain in compliance.
Other supplies to stockpile include bandages, disinfecting solutions and ointments and cool compresses. Please review Red Cross procedures for treating burns — for bonus kudos, get your staff certified in first aid and CPR.
4. Monitor Your Property
Disasters often strike when no one is around to call 911. You don’t want to arrive at your facility to find a burned-out husk.
Please check your smoke alarms each month — assign a member of your safety team to this task. When selecting an alarm company, choose one that includes a call to the fire department before notifying you when conditions warrant it to avoid delays in stopping the blaze.
5. Evaluate Your Coverage
If a fire does occur, will you have sufficient resources to rebuild? Please carefully consider this need when you meet with your insurance provider.
Ensure you have enough coverage for your facility. This need may include liability for attached structures if you occupy a multi-unit building. You also want to insure your business income if a blaze makes you cease operations temporarily.
Manage Workplace Fires With These 5 Tips
Few business owners relish contemplating the worst, but it pays to prepare yourself. Learn how to manage workplace fires with the five above tips.