Fire is a serious danger that takes people by surprise at school, work, and home. It destroys belongings, causes terrible injuries, and can kill. So, it’s important to practice fire safety to minimize the odds of fires getting started, and to protect life and property if one does.
When it comes to protecting your storage facility, you’ll want to focus on equipment, training, drills, and checks.
Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms
Every hallway (and every storage unit, if possible) should be equipped with a smoke detector.
In addition, you’ll want fire alarms at regular intervals in the hallways and the outside walls of your storage facility. That way, if a tenant or employee sees the beginning of a fire, they can pull the alarm, alerting everyone on the premises and the fire department.
We recommend you have fire extinguishers near your fire alarms in your hallways, and get your employees trained on how to properly use them.
Per Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, you need fire sprinkler systems. The sooner water comes down to squelch a fire, the better. Firefighters are trained to move quickly, but it still takes time to get to your location. Fire sprinklers may not completely stop a fire, but they can at least slow it down. Contact a company that installs fire sprinklers, and work with them to get one installed in your buildings.
OSHA requires that all workplace buildings have a minimum of two fire exits. In addition, these must be kept clear, and must not be close to each other. These can be hallway entrances and exits, but they should be clearly marked as fire exits, and they must lead outside.
Make sure you and your employees are trained in fire safety, even if you need to have a third party vendor come in to handle it. Once the initial training is done, you should know enough to handle fire drills from there. We will cover some important rules in the rest of this article as well.
You should also post fire exit instructions for tenants. We recommend you have these up where they can see them in your office, as well as beside each fire alarm, and on the fire exit doors.
Drills and Evacuation
Schedule the occasional fire drill, so that employees know what to do in case of a fire. They will need to know exactly what to do, which paths will be safest, and which exits to take, no matter where they happen to be in the facility. Write a fire safety plan that explains what to do in case of a real fire, and post it where employees will see it regularly. On it, include the number for the nearest fire department. Yes, you can call 911 if you must, but if you call the fire department directly, they can arrive faster.
In emergency situations, it’s critical that everyone know what to do. You cannot assume your employees will make the right decisions without training.
Train Your Employees
It's critical for you and your employees to know what to do in case of a fire. Everyone should also be able to inspect the buildings to determine if your fire safety measures are where they should be.
Here are some important steps to take.
Regularly check every smoke detector to be sure it's working properly, and replace batteries if necessary.
Keep fire sprinkler valves open, and locked in that position.
Ensure fire extinguishers are charged, and in their proper places.
Keep all areas clean, especially those around heaters and HVAC units. Don't store anything flammable in these areas.
Do not plug too many items into one socket.
Either have designated outdoor smoking areas with non-tip ashtrays, and away from flammable items, or disallow smoking on your site entirely.
Ensure fire exits and escape routes are designated with signs.
One of your closing procedures should be to do a visual fire safety check around the facility.
In Case of Fire
Again, we recommend getting training for what to do in case of a fire, as we can't completely cover the topic in one article, and it's a good idea to work with experts. However, here are some of the basics.
Pull a fire alarm to alert the fire department, and call the fire department.
If unsure how big a fire is, everyone needs to leave the facility at once.
If a fire is small and contained, you can use a fire extinguisher to put it out. However, if it begins to grow, evacuate the facility.
If you do not know how to use the fire extinguisher, just evacuate.
When possible, close doors and windows behind you as you exit (unless others are evaluating behind you).
If you must move through a smoky area, crawl to the exit. Smoke rises, so the air will be clearer toward the floor.
Watch for Strangers and Loiterers
Don't allow people to hang around inside your storage facility grounds, or just outside, for extended periods. Not all fires happen by accident. When it comes to building fires, arson is a common cause.
Post “No loitering” signs, so people won't be surprised when you ask them to leave. If you feel unsafe approaching loiterers, call the local police department.
Your outdoor lighting system should be in operation at night, even if your grounds are closed. Would-be thieves, and arsonists, will think twice about proceeding if a light comes on when they're sneaking around.
Finally, ensure that whoever closes for the evening locks all windows and doors securely. If your facility has nighttime security guards, all the better.
We hope this guide has given you a strong idea of how to move forward with your fire safety plans. More information on OSHA can be found at the U.S. Department of Labor website.