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Warehouse fires can be extremely serious and devastating for the business in charge of the operation.
There are several things in a warehouse that can pose a significant fire hazard if not properly handled or maintained, and it is upon the business owners to keep both their employees and their goods protected from fires.
Fire safety is a serious matter and all workplaces, including warehouses, must make sure that they are adequately prepared for any emergency.
When it comes to preventing, detecting, and containing fires, there are several things that warehouse owners can do to minimise the risk.
Fire alarm systems are one of the most integral parts of fire safety in warehouses as they help detect fires at the earliest possible time, allowing for safe evacuation and minimal damage.
Read on to find out the causes of fires in warehouses, what can be done to prevent them, how fire alarm systems can help, and much more:
Understanding what causes warehouse fires puts you in a good position to take the necessary measures to prevent and control them. Some of the most common causes of warehouse fires include:
Unfortunately, one of the most common causes of warehouse fires are fires that are started deliberately, also called arson.
Arson could be the result of petty criminal acts or even insurance fraud and can put the lives of those inside in danger, in addition to resulting in heavy inventory losses.
Issues with the warehouse’s electrical and lighting equipment come in at a very close second place for causes of warehouse fires. These are usually less damaging compared to deliberate fires but still pose a serious safety threat.
Putting strain on the electrical systems may cause them to overload and start electrical fires, especially if they haven’t been properly maintained.
Heating systems are required to keep warehouses warm during the colder months and are often an essential part of smoothly-run operations.
While they provide necessary temperature control, they can also be a serious fire risk. Similar to electrical systems, poorly maintained heating systems are most often the culprit of warehouse fires.
Another major cause of warehouse fires is something called “exposure”, which is a firefighting term used to refer to materials that are flammable but are not currently on fire.
This is an issue in many warehouses as they often store a lot of combustibles that could catch fire if they are exposed to a flame or heat source.
Smoking isn’t only a bad and unhealthy habit but also a dangerous one that could potentially start fires.
Not putting out cigarettes before discarding them is a serious issue in many workplaces including warehouses, and could result in full-fledged fires if not contained at the right time.
Warehouses are a critical part of a business as they store valuable stock needed to meet customer demands and expectations.
Any disruption to its operations can have a huge impact on customer satisfaction and the business’s reputation.
Generally, warehouses are packed from floor to ceiling with materials that can easily catch fire. These can be paper, wood, clothes, and other similar items.
Even if you don’t stock combustibles, the cardboard and plastic packaging that they’re wrapped in can be a serious fire hazard.
Due to these reasons, it is very important to implement the required fire safety measures that will minimise the threat and make sure your business runs smoothly without any disruptions.
There are several things you can do to minimise the risk of fires occurring that are in line with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which outlines the general fire precautions that must be implemented in all workplaces in the UK, including warehouses.
A fire risk assessment is a detailed look at your premises and the activities carried out that could increase the likelihood of a fire starting and causing harm to those present in or near the warehouse.
A “responsible person” is chosen to identify what needs to be done to prevent fires and keep people safe. Their main aim is to:
Fire risk assessments can be carried out by the responsible person, or group of people, or you may appoint a competent person, such as a professional risk assessor, to carry it out for you.
Fire detection systems are divided into two main types – manual call points and automatic fire alarm systems:
Manual call points, also called “break-glass call points”, allow an individual to raise an alarm and warn other people in the area upon discovering a fire.
These are conspicuous (normally red in colour) and placed at a reasonable height in an unobstructed area.
They are usually placed near exits or fixtures, fittings, machinery, and stock in a way that no one has to travel more than 45 metres to the nearest call point.
The distance may be less if your warehouse caters for people with limited mobility or if the workplace is particularly high-risk.
Automatic fire alarm systems, as the name suggests, are those systems that get triggered automatically by certain conditions including heat, smoke, and carbon monoxide levels in the air.
They are paired with different types of sensors and sound an audible and visual alarm when they pick up on changes in the environment that may be caused by a fire.
They do not need any human intervention and are best suited for areas where people are isolated and can be trapped in case of a fire and where a fire can develop unobserved.
Fire alarm systems can be categorised based on how the system’s components are connected to the control panel and how accurately they locate the fire. The three main types of fire alarms are:
Conventional fire alarm systems have circuits wired in parallel and are made up of one or more zones, each one having either manual call points, automatic detection systems, or a combination of both connected to the control panel.
The accuracy of knowing the exact location of the fire depends on the number of zones a control panel has and the number of circuits being wired into the building.
These systems do not give the exact location of the fire and are used only for gaining a rough idea. For instance, if a warehouse is divided into 4 zones and zone 1 is triggered, it would mean that the fire is somewhere in zone 1.
Conventional fire alarms are low-cost fire alarm systems that are simple to use and ideal for small buildings and warehouses.
Addressable fire alarm systems are similar to conventional systems in the way that they work, except that all the devices and sensors are connected in a loop and the control panel can pinpoint exactly which detector has triggered the alarm along with the area where the fire started.
Each device also has its own address on the system, which means that you can easily identify the exact location of the fire and send the fire brigade directly to the location of the fire.
These systems are more customisable and are generally better suited for larger buildings and warehouses.
Wireless fire alarm systems are a wireless alternative to traditional wired fire alarm systems and can be used for a variety of applications, including warehouses.
They use secure radio communication to connect the sensors and devices with the control panel and provide all the great benefits without the need for unnecessary cables.
Other than the above-mentioned types, fire alarms can also be categorised based on the type of protection they provide; i.e., life or property.
The two categories of fire alarm systems include:
Category L systems are fire detection systems that aim to protect the lives of people on the premises and are divided into five levels, levels L1 to L5, with each offering a different level of protection.
Category L1 fire alarm systems provide the highest level of protection and the earliest possible warning since they recommend installing both manual call points as well as automatic fire detection systems throughout the premises.
Category P systems are fire alarm systems focused on property protection and they provide the earliest warning of a fire in order to reduce the time it takes to extinguish the fire and minimise loss of property.
They can be divided into two categories: category P1 and P2. A category P1 system requires the detectors and alarms to be placed in all areas of the building and is designed to protect the entire premises.
A category P2 system, on the other hand, provides fire detection in certain parts of the building that are more high risk and where the contents are particularly valuable.
Fire alarm systems are an important part of fire safety in warehouses. The biggest reason you must have an effective fire alarm system installed in your warehouse is that it saves lives.
Nothing is more important than human lives and it is your responsibility as a business owner and manager to make sure all the employees, customers, and visitors stay protected against fires and other safety threats.
A good fire alarm system will detect a fire at the earliest possible stage and notify all the occupants of the threat, giving them ample time to safely evacuate.
While fire alarm systems don’t necessarily put out fires, they can alert the people who can, aka the fire brigade, and reduce loss of lives and property.
The local fire department can be notified and the fire brigade can be dispatched as quickly as possible. The faster all these things happen, the lesser time the fire will have to grow and spread, and the fewer the damages will be.
The minimisation of damages also results in shorter downtime until the business can be reopened as, depending on how severe a fire is, it can take very long for the business to recover from the losses and get back on track.
Most insurance companies give discounted premiums for businesses that have a code-compliant fire alarm system in place. Some may even have that as a prerequisite for insuring the warehouse in the first place.
In addition to all the above-mentioned benefits, a properly functioning fire alarm system also helps you stay compliant with the law and maintain your reputation as a responsible business.
Other than installing a properly functioning and well-maintained fire alarm system in your warehouse, there are several other measures you can take to prevent and minimise the risk of fires and make sure everyone on the premises stays safe away from harm’s way:
All electrical systems and installations, including all machinery and portable electrical equipment, must undergo regular testing and inspections to make sure they are in good condition and are suitable to use. They also help identify potential issues so that you can resolve them before they cause any serious damage.
It is very important to train the workers and employees of a warehouse on how to implement the best fire safety practices to minimise risk to themselves, the people around them, and the business.
Along with training all those on the premises, a good fire safety plan must have a proper evacuation plan that details the steps to take in case of a fire, and regular fire drills so that everyone knows what to do and how to safely evacuate the building as quickly as possible.
Fire extinguishers are an integral part of any fire safety plan as they help put out small fires before they get a chance to spread. You must train your staff so that they are comfortable using them when tackling small fires.
Emergency lighting is lighting that kicks in during an emergency, such as a fire, when the building is compromised. It helps illuminate safe exit routes, making evacuation much smoother and safer.
Our experts have been working in the industry for over 40 years and can provide you with a comprehensive solution for your warehouse’s fire safety needs which includes:
The proper installation of a fire alarm system is just as important as the quality of the system itself and is a complex task requiring expertise in the field.
We can survey your property and determine the best kind of system suitable for your needs and one that complies with the current standards and regulations.
We can then plan and install your system to high standards using only the best quality equipment from our trusted suppliers.
We also offer after-sales care and an ongoing maintenance package after the installation to ensure your fire alarm works in optimal condition providing you with a system you can depend and rely on.
Commercial fire alarms must follow strict regulations and guidelines to keep them in good working order and the best way to stay compliant is to have them serviced regularly.
We have a vast understanding of the regulations in force and can provide you with a high level of service to keep your system healthy and working all the time.
According to the law, a fire alarm system must be maintained properly and depending on certain factors, it can be up to three times per year.
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