Business Fire Safety

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Business Fire Protection

Every business owner must identify and control conditions that may lead to fire damage. A fire can drastically interrupt your business operation, destroy your property, and may cause additional expenses. If unprepared, many businesses do not reopen after a major loss. The following areas of fire protection should be evaluated:

Fire Protection Sprinkler Systems

Your building may be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system and or an automatic fire alarm/monitoring system. When properly installed and maintained, these systems provide 24-hour fire protection. Should a fire start, smoke and or heat detectors will alarm building occupants and send a signal to a central station monitoring center; the central station notifies the Fire District to respond. The fire sprinkler system will activate and release a water spray in the area of the fire, suppressing it until the fire department arrives. Often a sprinkler system may totally extinguish a fire. It is important that portions of the automatic fire sprinkler system be self-inspected quarterly, inspected professionally annually, and then professionally inspected and certified every 5 years.

Fire Extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers are often the first line of defense in fighting a fire. It is important that your business has the right type, size, and number of extinguishers, and that your employees are trained to use them. A quick call to your nearest fire protection equipment supplier or the Novato Fire District will help assure that you have the protection you need. Extinguishers are classified by the types of fires they extinguish. Most are multi-purpose.

• Class A Ordinary combustibles (such as wood, paper, cloth, some plastics)
• Class B Flammable liquids
• Class C Energized electrical equipment
• Class D Combustible metal fires
• Class K Commercial cooking-related fires

There are also clean agent fire extinguishers for protecting electronic items such as computers, telephone system equipment, and some mechanical equipment. The agent is clean, non-conductive, and effective.
Extinguishers are rated by the size of the fire they can extinguish, as determined by a testing laboratory such as Underwriters laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM). A quality extinguisher will be either UL-listed or FM-approved.

Old or obsolete extinguishers may be ineffective on fires and may cause injury. Examples of older units may include those using soda acid or carbon tetrachloride. If these are removed from service they should be disposed of properly. Contact the Novato Fire District or fire equipment supplier for disposal information and assistance.

Your extinguishers should be professionally inspected at least annually by a professional fire equipment supplier.

Smoke Alarms

Although smoke alarm do not put out fires, they do provide early warning that may allow escape from the building. Detectors are also tested to meet certain standards by testing laboratories, such as UL.

Install a smoke alarm according to the manufacturer's guidelines. The leading cause of smoke alarm failure is missing or dead batteries. If you have a battery-operated unit, test the battery at least monthly and replace it if necessary.

Some alarms may be powered by the building's electrical system, and may also have a back-up battery. These units should also be tested regularly to assure proper operation.

Flammable Liquid Storage and Use

Businesses today often use a variety of flammable or combustible liquids, such as cleaners, solvents, adhesives, etc. Flammable liquids give off vapors that may travel with the natural air flow. These vapors may explode when ignited by a spark, such as a faulty electrical switch or a flame from a water heater pilot light. Store flammable liquids in their original container or in a UL-listed safety can. Allow plenty of ventilation when using flammable liquids to reduce the risk of fire, injury or illness from breathing the vapors.