There are hundreds of items to address before opening a new business, including location, product and décor. With so many exciting decisions to make, it can be easy to push aside choosing a fire alarm system, even though a working fire safety/suppression system is required from day one. 

A fire during construction can be a wake-up call to this crucial consideration. On Jan. 18, 2019, a fast-moving fire engulfed a McDonald’s restaurant in Aurora, Illinois, that was closed for remodeling and nearly complete. Construction workers were welding near the ceiling of the building when some insulation caught on fire, according to local officials. The workers fled the building after trying to extinguish the flames themselves. There were no injuries, but damage estimates were set at $2 million.

Pre-opening business fires are costly setbacks but imagine how much more devastating a fire with numerous injuries — or deaths — would be. Many businesses have no other choice than to stock their backrooms or warehouses with inventory and files piled high in cardboard boxes and wooden crates. A lunchtime cooking incident or a smoldering cigarette can turn inventory into ashes and put lives in jeopardy.

A report issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) showed that on average, 1,210 fires occur in warehouses each year, resulting in an average cost of $155 million in property damage, three deaths and 19 injuries. Fires that were intentionally set and those caused by electrical distribution and lighting equipment are the leading causes of warehouse fires. (Study figures are from 2009 to 2013.)

Another NFPA report showed that from 2010 to 2014, an estimated 7,410 structure fires in eating and drinking establishments were reported to fire departments per year, causing $165 million in property damage, three deaths and 110 injuries. In 61 percent of the incidents, cooking equipment was the leading cause of fire.

The NFPA also has statistics specific to manufacturing facilities. Research shows there are about 37,000 fires at industrial or manufacturing facilities each year, resulting in 16 deaths, 273 injuries, and $1.2 billion in property damage. Electrical distribution and lighting equipment were the leading causes of structure fires in industrial properties, accounting for 24 percent of the total, while heating was the leading cause of structure fires in manufacturing facilities. (Figures are from 2011 to 2015.)

While burglary prevention may be foremost on the minds of new business owners, fire safety and suppression should be of equal, if not greater, concern. A fire could lead to serious injury or death of staff members and/or customers. It could damage merchandise, destroy records, ruin expensive equipment and, in the worst case, put a company out of business.

Municipalities have fire safety codes that must be met and reviewed at regular intervals. Each city has slightly different requirements, so it’s important to work with an alarm company that knows the rules, can help pass the first inspection, establish a testing schedule, and provide detailed reports. Local regulations also establish how many exits a building must have, how many people are allowed inside at one time and what kinds of activities are acceptable.

Staff safety training will ensure that in the event of a fire, each employee knows the protocol for alarm activation, as well as how to escape. Staff should be trained on how to prevent electrical fires, as they are the second leading cause of warehouse fires. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers have a written emergency escape plan. Training not only reinforces knowledge and awareness of hazards; it also empowers workers to participate in creating and maintaining a safe work environment.

Local fire departments, the National Fire Protection Association or an independent fire training organization can help evaluate training needs and requirements that will aid in the design and implementation of training programs. Nobody wants to imagine their new business going up in flames. But it is a scenario that has to be considered to protect lives and merchandise and ensure peace of mind.

When it comes to fire, every second counts. Fire alarms go off when they detect smoke, but a security system that can see a fire happening before the fire alarms go off can summon authorities more quickly. It can make all the difference between a close call and thousands, or even millions of dollars in property damage. Alarm Detection Systems, Inc. (ADS), offers a comprehensive selection of fire safety system solutions from leading manufacturers as well as experienced staff to make sure that a new business is protected from its grand opening and beyond.

ADS installs and services:

• Fire alarm control panels

• Smoke Detectors

• Beam Smoke Detectors

• Heat detectors

• Wireless transmitters

• Pull stations

• Remote zone annunciators

• Warning horns, bells, alarms, & strobe lights

Our Commercial Consultants can assist you at 630.844.6322.