Tips Offered For Prevention Of Costly Fires at the
“Fire is our friend,” the old hermit told Frankenstein’s
That’s certainly not true, however, if you’re in the kitchen and
bath industry. A fire at the workplace or job site can completely
devastate your business, and can even cost the life of an employee,
a client, or yourself. At the same time, your uncovered costs can
be as much as four times as much as your insured costs.
Here are some things to think about with respect to fires.
1. Electrical fires are by far the leading cause of
small-business property losses. Wiring problems are particularly
likely to be found in structures built before 1950. “Knob and tube
wiring” was commonly used before World War II. Ceramic knobs were
mounted to building studs, and copper wiring with fiber insulation
was wrapped around them. Often, mazes of such wiring are visible in
the basements or attics of older structures. The insulation on such
old wiring can fray, leading to shorts and subsequent fires.
Aluminum wiring, which was commonly used in the 1960s and 1970s,
easily overheats, causing its insulation to crack and deteriorate.
Fuse boxes are another danger sign of an older system; circuit
breakers should have replaced them.
2. Your system can be overtaxed by the power needs of such
modern office equipment as personal computers, printers, fax
machines and appliances such as microwave ovens in your displays.
Turn off all equipment and appliances at the end of the day.
3. In the workplace or on the job site, be sure your
subcontractors use extension cords that are sturdy enough to carry
the current that will be drawn through them. Don’t put them down in
areas with a lot of foot traffic, or place them under carpets.
Replace damaged extension cords; don’t try to patch them up with
4. Given the growing use of electrical equipment and appliances
everything from coffee makers to cell-phone rechargers in small
businesses today, the use of power strips is becoming increasingly
common. In extreme cases, one sees “piggybacking,” in which one
power strip is plugged into another. Suddenly, an outlet meant to
provide power to two electrical devices is serving six or even a
dozen. As a result, the wiring draws a lot of current through it,
leading to overheating, the breakdown of wire insulation and other
problems. If power strips are popping up everywhere, it’s a good
indication that your business needs additional circuits and
5. If you have a shop where wood or solid surface is cut, sanded
or routed, make sure you have a spark suppressor in your dust
collection equipment. Suspended dust can serve as an explosive.
6. Your business will use a lot of flammable materials on the
job site and will need to store them in your workplace. Be sure
adhesives, paint thinners, paints, cleaning compounds and other
volatile chemicals are stored properly in specially designed
cabinets that can maintain a cool inside temperature, even if
there’s a fire outside. They cost about $200 to $500, depending on
their size, and one is often all a small business needs. Be sure
you don’t put the cabinet or cabinets anywhere near an exit.
In addition, note that all hazardous chemicals including paint,
bleach, inks, dyes and other common substances come with Material
Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) describing their properties, explaining
how they react with other chemicals, specifying how they can be
safely handled and stored, etc. Be sure these MSDSs are accessible
to all employees and be certain that your employees read and
7. Be sure your employees know where the fire exits are, and be
sure those exits are kept accessible and clear at all times. And,
of course, smoking in the workplace and on the job site should be
8. A small fire suppression system or alarm system is costly but
can provide peace of mind, and may cut your insurance premiums.
After a fire, about two-thirds of small businesses never reopen,
despite whatever insurance they may carry. Planning beforehand can
make your business one of the ones that survives and that alone is
worth its weight in