Life Safety: How to Identify Fire Hazards in Commercial Buildings

The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that there were 116,500 non-residential building fires in the U.S. in 2021. They resulted in $3.7 billion in direct property damage. These staggering figures are proof that fire is one of the most devastating forces that can affect a commercial building.

What’s even more unfortunate is that many fires can be prevented and mitigated. It only takes regular inspections to identify potential fire hazards. These are any conditions or materials that cause a fire or make it spread faster.

With that in mind, this brief safety guide aims to help you identify potential hazards in your building and protect your investment. We’ll explore what inspectors look for and highlight tips for addressing any issues so the occupants are safe. Keep reading to learn more.

Flammable Materials

One of the most obvious sources of fire hazards is the presence of flammable and combustible materials. These include paper, cardboard, wood, fabrics, plastics, oils, paints, solvents, and gases. Such materials can easily ignite and spread flames if stored improperly.

Reducing the risk from flammable materials starts with proper storage. Design an area for this that’s far from sources of heat and electricals. Use the right containers and labels for easy identification. Ensure that you dispose of any hazardous materials regularly as well.

Obstructed Emergency Access

Firefighters need quick access to water connections in an emergency. However, things like landscaping, dumpsters, and business equipment get in the way. They block the very fire department connections (FDCs) and valves needed to fight a fire.

This seemingly small oversight is a violation with serious consequences. For starters, blocked access slows down emergency response. The extra minutes allow fires to rage out of control. There is also an increased risk of injury as firefighters work to move heavy obstacles.

Ensure that outdoor areas near FDCs and valves are always clear. The interior valves, sprinkler system controls, and extinguishers should also be easy to access. Schedule a regular property inspection to catch and solve any issues that may hinder access.

Electrical Hazards

Faulty electrical systems are among the leading causes of fire. They are also among the most common dangers found during building inspections. Even the smallest issues can be incredibly dangerous if overlooked.

Inspectors look for specific dangers like damaged insulation, overloaded circuits, and loose wires. They also check for water leaks near electronics and too many extension cords. Any signs of overheating, like melted plastic or sparks, further raise red flags.

You’ll need a professional electrician to fix any issues. Regular inspections also play a vital role in preventing electrical hazards and keeping your property safe. Don’t wait until it’s too late - stay on top of electrical safety to protect your property and people.

Improper Fire Protection

Having fire extinguishers, alarms, and suppression systems is not enough. They only provide a false sense of security if they aren’t maintained properly, hence why many property owners fail inspections. Outdated extinguishers, deactivated alarms, and blocked sprinkler systems are useless.

Fire extinguishers must be recharged annually, and gauge pressures must be in optimal ranges. Smoke detectors should be clean and in working order rather than disabled with dust or grease residue. Alarms must have adequate volume to notify everyone in the building in case of a fire.

As for the suppression systems, they should have the last inspection tags. Also, ensure that the valves are open and caps intact. The sprinkler heads need to have ample clearance underneath them. This ensures that water flows freely to put out any fires that occur.

Blocked Exits

Having clearly marked exits that are easily accessible is a vital aspect of fire safety. It allows people to safely exit the building in case of a fire. However, inspectors often find blocked exits, missing exit signs, and faulty doors.

All these violations put the lives of everyone in your building at risk. Ensure that all the paths to the outside are always clear of debris and other blockages. Even the smallest things in the way can cause problems if people need to get out quickly during an emergency.

Place visible signs and lights above the exits. Ensure that the lights work even if the power goes out. Doors should open with ease, and egress paths are always clear.

The idea is to make it as easy as possible for people to get to safety during an emergency. As such, ignoring these basic safety measures endangers all within a building if a crisis strikes.

Faulty Equipment

It may not seem like it, but faulty equipment often becomes ignition points if not repaired. Motors that don’t work right, wires that are falling apart, gas pipes that leak, and parts that are worn out can all create avoidable dangers.

For example, take the case of a commercial freezer with a door that doesn’t seal properly. Ice builds up over time, causing the unit to work extra hard to maintain the temperature. This can overheat the motors and wires, sparking a fire.

A small gas leak near an oven poses an obvious risk of explosion. Yet, these minor repair issues often go unnoticed during the day-to-day operations.
Inspectors specifically target high-risk equipment. This includes ovens, machines near flammable items, pumps, HVAC systems, and generators.

They smell for gas leaks, listen for odd noises signaling issues, and use thermal cameras scanning for hotspots suggesting imminent failure.
Mitigating the risk posed by faulty equipment requires investing in regular maintenance. Staying on top of your commercial inspections also helps identify minor issues, giving you a chance to fix them promptly.

Don’t Gamble With Fire Hazards - Schedule Your Commercial Inspection Today!

Fire hazards are a serious threat to your commercial property and the people who work or visit there. By identifying and eliminating them, you can reduce the risk of fire and ensure the safety of everyone on your premises.
This is where Central Florida Building Inspectors Inc. comes in.

We specialize in evaluating commercial buildings for any hazards. Our team takes a comprehensive approach when assessing your property. We even provide a detailed report of our findings and recommendations so you know how to best protect your investment and peace of mind.

Schedule an appointment today to experience the CFBI difference - we can’t wait to hear from you!

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