Nobody looks forward to a fire inspection, but being prepared makes it much less stressful. Your business has come too far to get derailed by a conflict with the fire marshal. Be sure to follow proper fire safety practices to breeze through your upcoming fire inspection and get back to work. By avoiding the most commonly cited fire code violations, you can set your business up for a successful inspection and safe working conditions. Here are the best tips for how to prepare your business for a fire inspection.
Prepare Your Business For A Fire Inspection
Safeguards to Prevent Electrical Fires
To prevent electrical fires from happening to you (and to pass your fire inspection with flying colors), you should first verify that there are metal covers on all your junction boxes and circuit breaker panels. All electrical boxes and panels should be clearly labeled to identify what each circuit controls. Make sure you have cleared out a space of at least 30 inches in front of your circuit breaker panels so anyone can get in and shut them off quickly in case of an emergency.
Fire marshals are sure to check that extension cords are only being used for temporary projects. Don’t use them as replacements for permanent power to fixtures. Additionally, exposed cords can’t show signs of being frayed or spliced. Any extension cords that are visible on the day of inspection should not pass through ceiling panels or walls or go under rugs or tiles.
Your desktop computers and related hardware (such as monitors and printers) must be plugged into a multi-outlet surge protector. These commercial surge protectors are the only approved multi-outlet adapters.
Working Fire Suppression Equipment
Test your fire alarms before the inspection to make sure they are in working order. You must produce documents showing that these alarms have been serviced yearly. Also, verify that your fire extinguishers are easy to access. You need proof that you bought them or had them serviced in the past year.
The number of fire extinguishers you need depends on the size of your business and the nature of what you sell. For example, if you sell oil for lamps, you are going to need more fire extinguishers than a green grocer would. Generally, you need one water- or foam-based extinguisher for every 2,000 square feet of store space.
If you have a sprinkler system, you will need to present proof that it was tested within the last year by a licensed contractor. The inspector may ask you for documents showing the sprinklers have been serviced on a quarterly inspection schedule. Additionally, check to make sure that you have at least 18 inches of clearance between storage boxes and the sprinkler heads. If you run a restaurant, you need proof that your commercial fire suppression systems (cooking hoods) are serviced every six months.
Plans to Protect Your Employees and Customers
Before your fire inspection, clear out pathways to the exits, including aisles and stairs, from any obstructions. You need to post maps to emergency exits in all the main sections of your business. If you have a restaurant, for example, you need one map in the dining area and another in the kitchen.
Next, test your emergency lights and exit signs to make sure they stay lit in normal and backup power mode. Exit signs have to stay on at all times. Verify that anyone, an employee or a customer, can open your exit doors easily from the inside. These can’t be secured with locks or complicated opening mechanisms. Emergency exit doors must open immediately.
The inspector will look for a sign posted near your main entrance that states, “This door to remain unlocked during business hours,” as well as a double-key deadbolt lock. You will also need to post a maximum occupancy sign near the main entrance in a way that is easily visible. The inspector may ask you about your maximum occupancy when you are not in view of the sign to make sure you know the limits and actively enforce this fire safety mechanism.
Communications With Firefighters
Be sure that firefighters can clearly see your street address as they approach your store. Your address should be posted in colors that contrast with the building and at both the front and back entrances.
If you have any fire hydrants on your property, they should not be obstructed in any way. Hydrants need 3 feet of clearance on every side, and the closest parking spot should be at least 10 feet away. If you have any private hydrants, they need to be painted red and maintained properly. You should have documents that show they are flushed yearly, and flows are taken at least once every three years.
The Value of Fire Safety
A fire inspection can be inconvenient and stressful, but fire damage could be devastating. The fact is that most businesses never recover from fire damage, so it’s best to be in line with all appropriate fire codes.
In most cases, a violation earns you a written warning with a deadline to fix the problem. Don’t delay because you can save lives, dollars and your future by improving your fire safety practices. Ultimately, you should appreciate what these fire codes do to benefit your business.
There is much more fire safety information available in OSHA’s Small Business Handbook so you can be fully prepared. Remember every state and local government has its own fire code, so you need to check those ordinances for more specific guidance.
Once you follow all of those tips and have everything ready, that is the best way to prepare your business for a fire inspection.
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