When you operate a warehouse as part of your business, a fire can wipe out your entire inventory and potentially shut down your business. When you lease warehouses to put on concerts or other events, a fire can quickly turn to tragedy. That’s what happened in Oakland, California, in early December when a fire tore through the Ghost Ship, an old warehouse that had been converted into an artists collective, killing 36 people.
Regardless of what role warehouses play in your operation, a fire can be one of the most devastating and costly events that can happen to your organization. And the statistics are sobering. According to the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) January 2016 report, "Structure Fires in Warehouse Properties":
- U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 1,210 warehouse fires per year between 2009 and 2013.
- These fires caused an average of $155 million in direct property damage, three civilian deaths and 19 civilian injuries every year.
So whether you’re operating a warehouse for your business or putting on events in leased spaces, it’s crucial to make fire prevention a top priority. One tool that can help is a checklist. To keep your warehouse operations fire safe, follow this 10-point warehouse fire prevention checklist:
- Conduct a thorough fire safety risk assessment according to the fire safety regulations in your area. Identify fire hazards, determine who is at risk, remove or reduce any risks, record your findings, and review and update your assessment regularly.
- Establish fire safety procedures tailored to your specific risks, including an evacuation plan, and provide training to all employees to ensure a unified response in the event of a fire.
- Have the necessary fire protection tools at your disposal to fight a warehouse fire including fire extinguishers, sprinklers and automatic fire detection systems. If employees are asked to extinguish a fire, ensure they are trained on the proper use of a fire extinguisher. Also be sure to regularly check that these tools and systems are working properly. Your fire detection and fire suppression systems should be inspected and tested annually.
- Keep spaces uncluttered and storage areas clearly defined. Keep aisles and fire exits clear, and properly store all hazardous materials, such as flammable and combustible liquids, in a UL-listed flammable storage cabinet.
- Check electrical systems to ensure they are properly installed and maintained according to code. Eliminate use of temporary electrical cords whenever possible, but if you must use them, regularly inspect the cords for damaged insulation or plugs.
- Shield your business with security to guard against arson, one of the main causes of warehouse fires. Consider installing internal and external security cameras and alarms to deter trespassers.
- Prohibit smoking inside the premises. Consider providing an external smoking shelter, making sure it’s constructed of only non-flammable materials, and don’t allow flammable materials within 20 feet of the shelter.
- Don’t rely on portable heaters, since they carry a much higher fire risk than fixed heating systems. Think your heating bills are high? Compare them to the amount you would spend recovering from a warehouse fire caused by a space heater.
- Don’t let waste accumulate. Accumulating waste is a major fire risk, so you should remove all waste materials at the end of every working day and transfer them to external receptacles. Don't let waste accumulate directly outside of the building either.
- Inspect the entire warehouse daily and log the results. Check that accumulated waste materials have been removed, that fire prevention and security systems are functioning and that any hazardous material or equipment has been stored properly.
Are you protected?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a fire could never happen at your warehouse. It could. That’s why robust insurance protection needs to be an integral part of your risk management strategy. Trust the insurance professionals at Higginbotham Insurance to provide resources and industry expertise needed to keep your warehouse protected against fire risks.