Fires are significant risks for warehouses. Firs can seriously endanger staff, destroy inventory, and cause costly property damage. Recovering from a fire can cost valuable time and, if it causes the violation of contracts, may lower the reputation of your business. Having a comprehensive fire safety plan is important to protect people, reduce liability, and keep your business secure.
Don’t forget that sources of fire may not just be mechanical failure, accidents, and chemicals. Former employees and even stranger may try to commit arson in the building too. With so many different risks, it is important to spend some time assessing your most likely risks and reducing them. You’ll also have to have appropriate fire safety equipment and a plan in the case of fire.
This fire safety checklist for warehouses will walk you through the process of identifying threats and mitigating them and how to regularly check up on your fire safety precautions.
1. Fire Safety Risk Assessment
The first step is always to assess the risk of your specific property. Every warehouse is different, with different inventory, equipment, and other potential risks. Your own professionals are a great resource to determine all of the fire risks in your building. Performing a thorough walkthrough with your team is essential. You may also reach out to a professional risk assessment company to determine your fire risks. This option is particularly helpful for complex warehouses and larger businesses.
2. Fire Safety Procedures
Your team of experts should also come up with fire safety procedures to follow to prevent, respond to, and evacuate in the face of fire. Your staff should all be well versed in your fire prevention procedures, where your fire extinguishers are located and how to use them. Conduct regular fire drills in order to keep staff well-versed with evacuation plans. They may also notice additional hazards while they evacuate, such as blocked pathways or exits.
3. Fire Safety Equipment
You may need a wide variety of fire safety equipment in order to keep your staff and facility safe. Here are the kinds of equipment and protections that you should consider:
- Fire detection: Commercial fire alarms can detect smoke at lower levels and respond faster to limit the flame. However, fire alarms are only the most basic fire protection equipment. You may need equipment that detects gas leaks, electrical problems, and other safety risks that could lead to fire too.
- Fire extinguishers: Large properties should not rely just on hand-held fire extinguishers but also on whole systems that automatically drench fires. You may need a custom sprinkler system that goes off only in the affected areas.
- Fire-resistant insulation or coatings: In many warehouses, fire-resistant insulation is wise to prevent the spread of fire. Fire-resistant coatings may also be helpful in some circumstances.
- Escapes: Your warehouse will need to have convenient escape routes in accordance with the fire code. You may need egress windows and doors that are equipped to allow faster escape. For example, your exterior doors may need to push bars to help people open them while moving quickly.
- Fire doors: These doors are the opposite of those that allow for quick evacuation. They are intended to close in the event of a fire and slow down fire as it spreads through the building. People can still open them, but they close to provide a barrier against fire.
4. The Heating System
Your HVAC systems, and especially the heating system, can be a fire risk if it is poorly maintained or overloaded. Something as simple as a full filter in a furnace can create a fire. It’s wise to have a professional maintain your system, especially if it is large and complicated. If you find yourself compensating for your system with portable heaters, you should especially look into having a professional upgrade the system. Portable heaters are more likely to create fires and are less efficient than other heating solutions anyway.
5. Electrical Systems
Building codes and advancements in electrical systems have reduced fires considerably. However, you won’t get the benefits of these more advanced systems if your building is not up to date and if you don’t treat your electrical equipment properly.
While every facility is different, here are some of the basic ways to keep your electrical system safe:
- All electrical panels should be accessible.
- The disconnect on the main electrical panel box should be clearly labelled in case of an emergency.
- All electrical faceplates should be present and intact. Extension cords are a potential fire hazard.
- Extension cords must be run properly to a ground plus and certainly not be damaged or frayed.
- Charges are undamaged, accessible, and stored properly.
6. Staff Behavior
There are many things that your staff can do on a daily basis to make sure that your warehouse is as fire-safe as possible. You will likely have clearly labelled spaces for different purposes, such as staging, storage, etc. Keeping to these spaces will help you prevent fires. Staff can also help prevent fires by not smoking on the facility, reporting spills immediately, and cooperating with regular inspections from fire marshals.
7. Cleaning and Waste
When things are a mess, fires are more likely, it may be more likely to spread, and more dangerous as mess may block people’s exit paths. You should regularly move waste to a temporary storage area, send it out regularly. Having and following stringent cleaning policies and waste disposal policies is critical, but every facility is different. If you have trouble keeping up with proper cleaning of your facility, you can always hire a professional cleaning team.
8. Facility Security
Arson is a top cause of fires, but one that few property owners are fully prepared for. Quality access control systems and secure doors will prevent unauthorized access to your facility. You should choose strong metal doors for exterior access, especially back-of-house access. Access control systems will allow you to conveniently allow access to the building to staff and authorized guests.
If you compartmentalize spaces to keep flammable materials and more sensitive equipment secure, then you can also use interior security doors and expansions of your access control system to control them.