Starting a new company involves a lot of hustle and bustle, and entrepreneurs always have a lot on their plate. Between hiring a competent team, securing funding, and preparing office space, you might find it difficult to think about anything else.
All the same, there’s one additional element that you simply can’t overlook: fire safety. As a leader and responsible citizen, it’s your prerogative to take fire prevention and emergency preparation seriously.
YOUR DUTY TO PROTECT EMPLOYEES, CLIENTS, AND VISITORS
When people step foot on your company’s premises, they’ll take it for granted that you’ve done what’s necessary to keep them safe. Doing everything you can to prevent fires and making sure you’ve got a plan if disaster strikes are essential components of business leadership. Not only will taking precautions to keep you on the right side of the law, but it is also the right thing to do. Human lives could depend on it.
THE BASIC FIRE SAFETY CHECKLIST EVERY BUSINESS SHOULD START WITH
Creating a safe environment requires a general plan and assiduous attention to detail. If you take care of some risks but ignore others, you’ll be leaving your business vulnerable. Here are eleven essential steps to promoting fire safety.
1. INSTALL AND MAINTAIN A FIRE ALARM SYSTEM
For legal and ethical reasons, your business must have an adequate system of smoke alarms and detection in place. The smoke or thermal detectors should be spread throughout the building, and you should focus special coverage on fire-prone areas like kitchens and laundry rooms. Inspect all fire safety equipment on a regular basis and replace any damaged components immediately. A fire services company can assist with this essential maintenance.
2. PLACE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS THROUGHOUT THE BUSINESS
When a fire suddenly erupts, fire extinguishers can make the difference between a minor mishap and a deadly catastrophe. Distributing these life-saving devices throughout your business is the best way to ensure any smaller fires are contained. Try to leave a meter of space around all extinguishers to make for easy access. You must engage a fire service company to carry out regular fire extinguisher testing to ensure they are in the correct working condition.
3. MATCH SAFETY EQUIPMENT TO THE SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF YOUR BUSINESS
Some businesses use materials or substances that require special types of extinguishers. Flammable liquids, for example, require dry powder or foam extinguishers to deal with a sudden burst of flames. Electrical fires, meanwhile, are best extinguished with carbon dioxide. Take stock of the specific risks posed by your business before investing in the proper equipment.
4. CREATE A DETAILED EVACUATION PLAN
Once a fire has grown out of control, the best way to save lives is by evacuating the building in a calm, orderly manner. A panicked response to a fire could cost employees and visitors their lives. To make a proper evacuation more likely, draw up a plan ahead of time. Determine how people should exit the building from each of the rooms and designate a gathering spot outside in the street.
5. CLEARLY MARK ESCAPE ROUTES AND EXITS
Escape routes should be easy to find, even in the smoky chaos of a fire. Place signs by all the exits and stairways and use arrows to point people toward evacuation routes. You should also include maps of the building along the walls, each with the escape route clearly drawn and explained.
photo credit: LancerE / Flickr
6. CONDUCT REGULAR FIRE DRILLS
Employees will have a much easier time escaping during an emergency if they’ve undergone the process before. Drills are so common around the world because they’re remarkably effective. Once they’ve practiced evacuating a few times, employees will know exactly what to do if disaster strikes.
7. TRAIN EMPLOYEES IN FIRE SAFETY
Fire safety should be a top priority when training your employees. Make sure they’re all well versed in the proper care or fire safety equipment. Teach them how to operate fire extinguishers and explain evacuation protocols in detail. Consider having outside experts conduct fire safety training to ensure everyone has the information they need.
8. CLEAN UP TO AVOID FIRE HAZARDS
Fires are much more likely to spread when they ignite in a cluttered space. Old files and other flammable debris can give fire the fuel it needs to grow quickly, while a messy workplace will make it difficult for employees to get to extinguishers in time. Purge your office of unnecessary waste and make an effort to keep walkways clear.
9. TAKE PROPER CARE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS
While some fires are caused by an act of God or the wrath of nature, much more spring from pure human carelessness. If you adopt a cavalier attitude toward the presence of hazardous materials in your business, you’re simply inviting disaster. Always store flammable substances, including cleaning supplies, in a secure, well-ventilated area, and dispose of these materials safely as quickly as you can.
10. MAKE SURE EQUIPMENT UNDERGOES REGULAR MAINTENANCE
All sorts of everyday machines and appliances can spark fires if they’re left unmaintained. Have all your business’s computers, washing machines, and kitchen equipment inspected regularly by outside professionals. HVAC systems also require regular maintenance.
11. DESIGNATE A SMOKING AREA FAR AWAY FROM THE BUILDING
A smoking cigarette butt might seem innocent enough, but it can spark disaster if it makes contact with flammable material. If employees and visitors are going to smoke, they need to do it in a safe, outdoor location far away from the building. The best way to ensure safe practices is by designating and clearly marking a special smoking area.
COMMIT TO FIRE PREVENTION AND EMERGENCY PREPARATION
It’s your job as the leader of your startup to keep everyone at the company safe. Do whatever you can to prevent fires, and make sure everyone at the company has the equipment and knowledge to respond to an emergency.
Once you’ve completed the checklist above, you can rest assured that you’re doing your part to promote fire safety.