The first priority for any business should be a healthy and safe environment. Accidents are costly, and the liability from claims and code violation penalties can be detrimental to a company. More importantly, protecting the people in your facility and providing them a safe environment is a moral responsibility.
Even with the most diligently designed fire protection system, however, occasionally mistakes will happen if building managers and owners aren't working with fire and life safety professionals.
Here are just a few ways you can ensure that your systems are keeping your building safe, and you can avoid fire and life safety code violations.
Keep Doors and Exits Clear
Blocked doorways and exits are by far the most common fire and life safety code violation. An emergency can happen at any time, and even a temporary obstruction to a doorway could be a major hazard.
Fire Marshals and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) frequently document this as a violation in businesses, and while a fine from an inspector is costly, obstructed exits during an emergency could be much more so.
Maintain Fire and Life Safety Signage
To maintain a reliable fire and life safety system, routine maintenance is absolutely essential. One area where this is often neglected by building owners and managers, however, is emergency lighting.
Unfunctional equipment such as non-illuminated emergency exit signs, inoperable emergency lighting, or blocked required safety signage can be easy to forget since the equipment is not often used. Regular testing and maintenance of these systems by a trained fire safety technician is key to keeping your building safe, and for avoiding violations.
Implement Proper Storage Practices
Fire and life safety code designates certain places that cannot be used for storage. Electrical panels, fire pumps, or fire extinguishers, in particular, should never be blocked or obstructed.
Often, violations are issued for clutter in a utility closet that should remain unobstructed, blocking electrical boxes that rarely get accessed, or for partially obstructing fire extinguishers. It’s crucial to know the spaces you need to leave open and equipment that should be easily accessible in case of an emergency.
Maintain Fire Sprinklers
While most buildings have sprinklers, few property owners or facility managers know much about the system. Since they are seldom used, sprinklers can be forgotten about.
If the purpose of the building has changed since construction - like occupancy rates have risen or housed valuables and potential hazards have changed - the fire sprinkler system may no longer be sufficient. It is absolutely essential to have building sprinklers regularly inspected and maintained by a trusted fire protection company. An expert can tell whether the right sprinklers for the space are installed, and ensure that the sprinklers will work when needed.
Replace Missing or Undocumented Fire Extinguishers
Arguably the easiest issue to address and one that is often neglected is readily accessible fire extinguishers, and keeping those fire extinguishers in compliance by regularly inspecting and documenting them.
This requirement of a building's fire and life safety system could result in many fire safety code violations if not done properly. Buildings are required to maintain a working and recently inspected extinguisher in specific areas of the building, unobstructed on all sides. A fire protection company can ensure annual maintenance and inspection on all fire extinguishers and verify that all are in place, accessible, and in working order.
Maintain Fire Alarm Systems
Faulty fire alarm systems can potentially go unnoticed for long periods of time if not regularly inspected as part of the building’s greater fire safety system. Acting as the system’s first alert in case of an emergency, smoke and heat detectors, control panels, fire pull stations, and alarm communication equipment are all crucial for protecting business assets, and lives.
Proper maintenance not only minimizes the risk of fire and life safety code violations, but also lays the groundwork for the rest of the system to protect the building and occupants.
Ensure Proper Record Keeping
The last thing building owners and managers want is to not be able to provide documentation that their fire and life safety systems have been regularly and properly maintained and inspected.
Keeping records of inspections, repairs, and tests will help building owners avoid costly fines due to violations. Keeping all relevant documentation readily available and organized is a simple step to take to make sure inspections run smoothly. Keep in mind that many inspections and equipment tests need to be performed by trained personnel, so working with a trusted fire and life safety provider is the safest way to do this.
Keeping Fire and Life Safety Systems in Compliance
Fires and disasters are sometimes hard to prepare for due to the same reason they are necessary to prepare for - you never know when they'll happen.
Neglecting fire and life safety systems at any time could be more than a citation or fine from a code violation, it could potentially cost lives. Employees, tenants, customers, and visitors who are in your building rely on you to vigilantly maintain a fire protection system that will keep them safe. By maintaining your system properly and partnering with a fire protection company, you can keep your building safe and violation-free.