Close up of red fire extinguisher
2 minute read

It goes without saying: a total fire loss is a devastating event. One that may take years to recover from – and some businesses never do.

Most fires can be prevented; however, very often the cause of a fire is entirely unforeseen. So when they do happen, it’s important to minimize the damage as much as possible.

One of the best ways to do this is through careful planning and construction.

Let’s look at three ways to make that happen.

1. Fire detection

Why? Early detection is critical so the fire can be extinguished before extensive damage occurs.

How? Fire detection typically includes smoke and heat detectors which connect to the intrusion alarm and are monitored by the alarm company. Larger buildings may have alarms that are locally monitored on separate systems.

Bottom line? Installing a fire detection system, if you haven’t already, is highly recommended.

2. Sprinkler systems

Why? A properly designed and maintained sprinkler system can stop a fire in its tracks. The increasing size of commercial properties has made sprinkler systems more common.

How? These systems aren’t one-size-fits-all but must be designed specifically to the building’s occupancy to ensure it’ll be capable of extinguishing a fire.

They also require annual inspections by a qualified sprinkler system contractor to make sure they’re fully functional. (Your insurer should routinely ask for sprinkler adequacy reports and annual inspection reports.)

Bottom line? Even though local building codes don’t always cite sprinkler systems as a requirement, they should always be considered when reviewing your building plans.

3. Fire separations

Why? The simplest way of preventing fire spread between buildings is by separating them. Restricting fire damage to a specific area helps to return your business to normal as quickly as possible.

How? Use fire walls to create separate fire areas within the same building. Fire wall ratings can vary depending on the construction materials used. For example, non-combustible fire walls made from hollow, concrete blocks are common and often have a fire rating of 3 hours.

These walls can have doors and windows provided that the former has the same fire rating as the wall and the latter is protected. An example of window protection is a rolling shutter that’s held open by a fusible link which melts from the heat of a fire and drops the shutter closed.

Bottom line? If you’re considering an addition to your current building or a new building, consider installing fire walls. The additional cost is significantly outweighed by the potential benefits.

For them to work, each of these solutions must be customized to your business by a professional based on the building’s occupancy, size, life safety issues and local building code. But even where local building codes don’t require these solutions, there’s a good chance it makes sense to implement them. After all, this ounce of prevention might save you years of recovery.