By John Lynch, general manager of Wormald’s Business Support Services
If you’re a business owner or property manager, I’m sure preparations are well underway for the festive season. As you get ready to head off for a well-earned Christmas break, it’s important to remember that fire doesn’t take a holiday. In fact, the risk of fire is just as high when your premises are vacant, if not higher.
According to Wormald’s recent Business Fire Safety Report, electrical hazards and machinery are responsible for 55 per cent of business fires; both electrical and machinery fires commonly occur when a premises is vacant.
The same study also found that many business managers across Australia and New Zealand may be underestimating the impact of fire. Only 50 per cent of survey respondents are concerned about damage to property, 31 per cent worried about loss of data or equipment and 16 per cent concerned about downtime.
Fire can have disastrous consequences and the damage can be irreparable for some small businesses. Estimates from The UK Chief Fire Officers Association show that 60 per cent of private businesses never recover from fire and the average cost of a commercial fire is £147,500, which equates to just over $250,000.
To minimise the threat of fire and its costly consequences, set aside some time to undertake a risk assessment of your premises before the business shuts down for the holiday period. This can help identify potential hazards and enable you to take necessary precautions.
The following checklist may be useful:
- Switch off machinery and appliances when not in use.
- Clear your premises and the areas immediately surrounding your premises of combustible materials such packaging, cardboard boxes and paper.
- Assess whether you have adequate fire protection equipment installed. If you’re unsure, a fire protection consultant can assist with this.
- Check any fire protection equipment and systems are in proper working order. In the event of a fire, this can help to alert emergency services and neighbours early and reduce potential damage.
- If your business has dangerous goods and chemicals on site, ensure they are stored correctly and in line with legislative requirements. Be mindful of the impact high summer temperatures can have on chemicals.
- Identify the information that is critical to business continuity and consider storing the originals or copies offsite over the holidays. This includes insurance policies, supplier and client lists and contracts.
- Back up all your data and consider storing it offsite over the break.
- Re-visit your insurance policy to ensure you comply with its requirements.
- Secure all doors, windows and access points when the business is unattended.