We didn’t start the fire – fire prevention and safety

In her first article for our newsletter, Tish Phillips, agricultural claims handler, writes on her recent trend of fire claims and what clients can do to prevent them and mitigate their losses.

I’ve handled a number of claims across my decades-long career in insurance. From liability to accidental loss or damage, I’ve seen an array of circumstances. One claim that is so fundamental to insurance and that still keeps cropping up even in our high tech society is fire. Be it arson, electrical fault or a combustion process that goes wrong, fire still has the power to turn a business from the black to the red overnight.

After a recent trend in barn fires amongst our agricultural clients, I decided to try and put together a list of fire prevention measures you can take as a business. This isn’t exhaustive and you may not want to do everything on the list. Using just one of these options could allow the business to get back up and running in a matter of weeks rather than months, help prevent a fire or raise awareness of the danger of fire amongst employees.

These are some simple tips compiled by myself and gathered from our clients and loss adjusters. For more tips, speak to your local risk management expert.

  • Start with the basics – have you got fire extinguishers correctly placed and charged up in buildings? They need annual maintenance and you should be aware of how to use them. Your local fire safety company will be able to assess where to place extinguishers, which type to use and how often they need replacing or recharging.
  • Next up, do you have smoke detectors on each floor of the property or in each room? These can alert employees to exit the building and allow for an early warning that things aren’t right. Consider upgrading to heat detectors too as these will pick up more than just smoke rising.
  • If you’re putting up a new build, would a sprinkler system work? Carefully managed and planned, this can help buy time in the event of a loss.
  • Electrical Inspections certificates, either annual or once every 3-5 years, can give a good health check of the premises and identify nay problems before they arise.
  • For employees, are they aware of what to do in the event of a fire? Consider having regular briefings on fire safety, what to do and make them aware of any evacuation plans.
  • Do you conduct regular fire drills? These will help employees familiarise what to do and give confidence that you’ve thought about the risk.
  • Make one of your team a Fire Safety Officer – this point of contact can take ownership of the fire management plan and do the hardwork for you. If you’re a small employer, consider what you would want an Officer to look for and sort out, then apply those measures.
  • Leave spaces inbetween appliances, goods and equipment. This will help them keep cool whilst running (if they produce heat) and buy more time in the event of a fire. Keep anything combustible away from items as these will just add fuel to the fire.
  • Try and switch off electrical equipment that doesn’t need to be on all the time. It can save energy, money and prevent unwanted fires!
  •  Rewiring can be a nightmare but it is a necessary evil. This should be looked at every 20 years and again can save the business energy, money and prevent unwanted fires!
  • Alongside fire prevention, make sure your first aiders are up to date and qualified. If someone is injured in a fire on site, quick treatment and emergency aid can prevent medical harm to them in the long term.