No building is completely safe from a fire. In 2013, there were approximately 93,000 non-residential building fires in the US—accounting for 65 deaths, 1,425 injuries, and nearly $2.5 billion in losses, according to the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Data Center.
Putting an efficient and effective fire prevention program plan in place, ensuring that your commercial fire alarm system is operating properly, and adhering to your state’s fire code and ordinances could prevent many of these fires. Before the fire inspectors in your town come out to inspect your building, you should be sure your property is up to code.
Here are 10 of the fire safety codes that must be adhered to in commercial buildings in Massachusetts: (Check the applicable laws in your state to identify the fire safety codes for commercial buildings.)
- The address of the property must be visible and marked in large numbers—this will ensure that responders can find your building in a timely manner. The name of your business should be posted in the front and the rear of your building.
- Place one fire extinguisher within 75 feet of anywhere in the business—this ensures no one has to travel more than 75 feet to get to a fire extinguisher.
- A sign must be posted with any exit door that locks with a key, reading: “This Door to Remain Unlocked during Business Hours.”
- All exits must be identified with a lighted EXIT signs—they should always be illuminated and include a battery backup in case the power goes out. You should also replace any burned out bulbs.
- Emergency exits should be clear of obstructions—in the event of fire or other emergency, employees and customers must be able to evacuate the building quickly. Blocked emergency exits are safety code violations, so it’s critical that business owners ensure that nothing is blocking the exits to remain code compliant.
- All the cords of your electrical appliances should be in good repair—you can prevent the risk of electrical shock and fire by periodically checking to ensure that the cords are not damaged or fraying. Replace the cords if necessary.
- Ensure your sprinkler system is tested and serviced annually—the system must be tested by a licensed fire sprinkler company to ensure that it’s working properly. You must provide a copy of the report to the fire department.
- Ensure your commercial fire alarm system is tested and serviced annually—the system must be tested by a licensed fire alarm company to ensure that it’s working properly. You should also provide a copy of this report to your local fire department.
- Curtains, draperies, blinds, and other window treatments or seasonal decorations must be fire resistant and approved for use in a public building—items like this in most public buildings must comply with the National Fire Protection Association 701 flammability standard.
- Be sure the fire department has an up-to-date list of all your emergency contacts—if there are any changes during the year, alert fire officials as soon as possible.
If you have any questions about whether your commercial building is up to code, check with your local fire department. It’s your best resource for the code requirements. As always, the first step in protecting your business from a fire is a comprehensive business fire alarm system.