Commercial buildings and their owners have to be prepared for all kind of disasters, whether they’re natural (fire or water) or human-generated. There are also many laws that also govern fire safety and require property managers and commercial business owners to have certain systems already in place, in case of emergency. Fires can wreak havoc and be a costly disaster — hotel and motel fires alone are responsible for over $75 million in property damage every year. Luckily, fire sprinkler installation is one of the systems required by many commercial buildings for safety, with excellent results. With other fire safety devices installed in the building, an appropriate fire evacuation plan, and knowledgeable employees, buildings can avoid major loss of life and possibly even minimize the property damage if people take action quickly enough. So what should should be taken into account when looking at a commercial building, its fire sprinkler installation (or lack thereof), and fire safety plans?
What’s the Damage?
Around half of high-rise fires are noted in four property classes — apartment buildings, hotels, offices, and medical facilities. Note that most of those are commercial buildings. Warehouse buildings are also impacted, and suffer higher property losses per fire due to their nature (but also often have a lower loss of life than other commercial buildings). And luckily, the number of fires recorded in warehouse fires has decreased over the last 30 years, from over 4,500 in 1980 to only 1,200 in 2011.
However, hotel and motel fires are still responsible for around 15 deaths and 150 injuries annually. Between 2006 and 2010, fire departments were called out to over 6,000 structure fires in or on health care grounds every year. Some of this is due to faulty inspections — the leading cause of non-confined fires in a hospital was electrical malfunction — while some are simply accidents (confined cooking fires). However, in either case, it’s important to stay vigilant and be prepared. Shockingly, a survey of 119 businesses showed that only 35% of the businesses had a fire evacuation plan.
How Does a Fire Sprinkler Installation Help?
Fire sprinkler installation, among other measures, is proven to be an effective measure of fire protection. A study of fires showed that sprinklers did what they were supposed to do in over 90% of all structure fires that were big enough to turn them on (this does not count buildings still in a state of being constructed or buildings that didn’t have sprinklers in the area the fire started). This shows that they’re responsive and will activate when a fire is detected. Fire sprinkler systems can have an added benefit to companies — quick response sprinklers only release between 8-24 gallons of water every minute as compared to a fire house, which releases 80-125 gallons, so the fire can be extinguished in the beginning stages and the company reduces their risk of any serious water damage. Research has also shown that building who use automatic sprinklers and early waning systems could cut down on the number of overall injuries, deaths, and property damage by half. Indeed, the National Fire Protection Association has the amazing record that shows they have no account of a fire killing over two people in a building that had properly working sprinklers all over.
Are There Other Effective Measures of Fire Protection?
There are always other methods you can use besides sprinklers to help make sure that your fire protection is as comprehensive as possible. Dry or wet chemical systems have also been proven effective, with an 81% success rate in fires that were big enough to activate them. Teaching employees or workers in the building about fire evacuation routes and what to do in case of a fire emergency is also crucial to minimizing damage and loss of life.
Fire protection is one of the most important things for commercial buildings to consider when thinking about protecting their buildings and those who live or work in them. Failure to do so can be both costly in terms of finances and reputation for the building’s owners.