Fire Risks to a Commercial Office and Tips to Reduce Them
Our homes and our businesses in Hog Mountain or Peachtree Ridge are our castles, which is why we work hard to make them as safe and secure as possible. Unfortunately, there are some hazards that may not be obvious and can cause damage to your office, in the form of fire or water damage. Even more unfortunate? The cost of these damages, which could run into the thousands of dollars, and can come out of your pocket—whether you’re an individual homeowner or a business owner or landlord. Here are some common causes of fire and water damage in commercial office buildings, as well as tips on how to prevent them from occurring and damaging your home or commercial property.
Understanding Building Fire Damage
Most office building fires are small. But even a small fire can do a lot of damage if it gets out of control or isn’t contained early on. One of the biggest dangers is smoke and fire damage to your home or commercial office's interiors. Smoke can permeate materials, carpets, walls, flooring, ceilings—even drywall joints—leaving hidden danger behind long after flames have been extinguished. Even if you can’t see any visible signs of fire or smoke damage, you should always have an experienced professional examine your property for lingering toxins from before you move back in.
According to this report by the NFPA, there are 7 main causes of fires in commercial office buildings. Cooking Equipment, Electrical distribution and lighting equipment, heating equipment, intentional damage, smoking materials, exposure to other fire sources, and electronic, office, or entertainment equipment. This statistic includes general business offices, banks, veterinary or research offices, engineering, mailing firms, and post offices.
Common Causes of Commercial Building Fires
Most office fires are caused by cooking equipment, accounting for slightly over one in every four commercial office fires. However, while these fires are the most common, they do not account for most of the property damage to office buildings. That position is taken by the intentional damage category. Intentional damage alone accounts for a full 20% of commercial fire property damage. Intentional Property Damage occurs when a person seeks to purposely damage the office property through arson.
Two other leading causes of fire in office buildings are heating equipment, electrical distribution, and lighting equipment. Together, they account for 18% of property damage to commercial office buildings. These can include things such as space heaters, light fixtures, electrical wiring, outlets, electrical appliances, extension cords, and more.
While lower on the list, smoking materials, electronic, office, or entertainment equipment account for 12% of commercial office property damage.
Lastly, exposure fires, as defined by the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), are fires resulting from another fire outside of the commercial building itself. This kind of commercial fire damage accounted for 18% of property loss.
What Can I Do To Prevent A Building Fire?
If your building was constructed with modern building materials, fire damage should be a rare occurrence. But it can still happen if you’re not careful. Make sure all smoking materials are safely extinguished before leaving work each day. A smoldering cigarette can ignite more easily than you think. Also, make sure to regularly inspect your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire suppression systems to ensure they’re working properly. If a smoke alarm goes off for no reason at all, make sure to replace or recharge its batteries immediately.
The NFPA uncovered another intriguing statistic about fires on weekends and between the nighttime hours of 7pm and 7am. 19% of fires occurred on weekends but accounted for 31% of fire-related property losses. Meanwhile, fires at night accounted for less than one-third of office property fires, yet caused 67% of direct property damage due to fires.
Automatic Fire Detection & Fire Extinguishing Systems: This shows that one of the most important steps you can take towards protecting your office building from fire damage is to install and maintain automatic detection and fire extinguishing systems.
Camera monitoring systems such as those installed by videosurveillance.com or Pelco would be best for large-scale commercial properties. Otherwise, self-installed solutions such as those recommended in this article by PC Mag will work well.
For fire suppression systems, the best solution is to pay a proper fire protection services consultant such as Fire Protection Services LLC. Make sure to ask them to help you develop and implement a fire suppression system maintenance plan.
Cooking Equipment Fire Prevention: The best way to prevent fires with cooking equipment is to train your staff properly in its use, cleaning, and maintenance. For more on cooking equipment fire prevention, be sure to refer to our article on reducing the risk of commercial kitchen fires here.
Electrical Hazards Fire Prevention: When it comes to electrical distribution and lighting equipment, there is a multitude of reasons why fire may start. But according to this article by firerescue1.com, faulty outlets or appliances, light fixtures, extension cords, space heaters, and wiring issues were the 5 most common electrical fire causes.
To prevent faulty outlet or wiring fire hazards, the first step is to make sure to have a certified electrical contractor or property inspector review your commercial property before purchase. Even if you or a tenant are already occupying your commercial office space, a proper inspection by a certified electrical contractor to ensure code compliance of all building materials and installations will protect you from potentially expensive fire repairs. This is especially important to protect you from having to pay for potential property damages out of pocket.
To protect your commercial property from fire damage due to light fixtures or extension cords, the most important tip is to ensure you follow the manufacturer's maximum recommended wattage and amperage guidance.
A good rule of thumb for selecting an extension cord is the smaller the wire gauge rating, the greater the capacity. According to this article by the Spruce, 12-gauge extension cords can handle up to 1920 watts (16 Amps), 14-gauge cords can handle 1440 watts (12 Amps), 16-gauge can handle 840 Watts (7 Amps), and 18-gauge cords 600 Watts (5 Amps). In addition to wattage capacities, another thing you should look at when choosing a commercial electrical power solution is cord lengths. The longer the cord, the more important it becomes to have a higher wattage extension cord.
For light fixtures, you should follow manufacturer guidelines to prevent property fire damage. However, what you should look out for are potentially dangerous light bulb wattages and materials around your lighting fixtures that could catch fire. High-wattage incandescent bulbs installed on light fixtures that are rated for lower-wattage bulbs can spark flames because of overheating. Also, keeping flammable materials around light fixtures, or allowing dust buildup increases the risk for fire damage.
Call SERVPRO of Buford/Suwanee/Hamilton Mill to Restore Commercial Fire Damage
We hope these tips are useful to help you protect your commercial property from fire damage. In case you experience a property loss in your commercial office building or commercial property, our team at SERVPRO of Buford/Suwanee/Hamilton Mill is available to help 24/7/365. Call us today at 770-945-5355 for rapid assistance.