Few things can decimate a small business like a fire, and it’s not an uncommon disaster.
In 2014, an average of 12.3 non-residential fires happened every hour. The impact of out-of-control flames can be extremely expensive. In 2015, roughly 136,000 fires resulted in $3.3 billion worth of damage. That’s approximately $24,000 dollars per fire and a costly risk that owners should be prepared for.
Even if fires can be difficult to stop, there are things small business owners may be able to do to help limit the damage. There are certainly things you can do to help reduce the risk of fires starting in the first place.
Get Business Insurance
Before you do anything else to protect yourself from fire, start with getting business insurance. A fire, due to faulty wiring or nature’s wrath, is a major, expensive event you need to be prepared for. The costs of property destruction, plus any resulting reconstruction and business disruption can accumulate to a hefty sum. If you’re the victim of a wildfire, you may also face evacuation expenses. Consider that you might face travels expenses and costs of accommodations, if you are unable to return to your home and business premises immediately. Before your new business even opens its doors, it’s best to contact your insurance representative and make sure you’re protected.
Invest the Time in Preventive Measures
Fire alarms, extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors are critical tools for protecting your business. Make sure you have them, and that they are all well-maintained. That means testing and changing fire alarm batteries regularly, as well as knowing where your extinguisher sits and how to use it. Make sure any sprinklers are operational, and that outlets and electrical equipment have no wiring or overheating issues that could lead to a fire. Lastly, consider turning machines off overnight so they can’t overheat or short out. These may be small steps, but ones that could help minimize the possibility of fire.
Consider Upgrading Your Office with Fire Proofing
If you own the building your business occupies, consider having an expert assess your place of business to determine how it can be made fire proof or resistant. That’s especially important in areas like California, that face wildfires. The right upgrade can make the difference between losing a building, or not. For example, common upgrades include fire shutters and double-paned glass for windows, and fire-resistant wood coating for the building. Roofs made of non-combustible materials, like tile and asphalt, also make a huge difference. Spending some money on these features will go a long way to help protect your business.
Keep Your Place of Work Tidy to Minimize Fire Risk and Damage
An office mess—scattered papers and boxes everywhere, or possible accelerants lying around—can feed flames. Think of it this way: if a faulty wire sparks and there’s nothing flammable nearby, the fire can’t spread as quickly. Keep your office neat and tidy. You don’t want clutter creating fire hazards or worse, hindering and endangering employees and customers if an evacuation is necessary due to a fire. This goes for any outdoor spaces associated with your business as well. You want to keep fire lines and driveways free and clear. Take care of the landscaping, too. Wildfires often make their way to buildings because they find a wealth of naturally flammable material (think trash, leaves, untrimmed or dead foliage) in unkempt grounds surrounding the structures. Keep those areas green and tidy, and it’s less likely a fire will enter your building.
Have Both a Disaster Plan and Continuity Plan
No small business should be without a proper disaster plan. In the case of fire, this involves an evacuation plan and practice fire drills. You also need a continuity plan to minimize risk to your business after a fire. Ensure everyone knows where they’ll be working from, whether it’s from home or a temporary location, how everyone will communicate, and how work files are backed and will be accessed, such as passwords for cloud backups.
Being prepared is key to ensuring your business can continue in the wake of disaster.
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