Fire-proofing your business


(first published in the Philippine Online Chronicles, March 29, 2014)

by Miel Feria, SERDEF Media Bureau

It’s really ironic that despite it being the Fire Prevention Month, more fires happen during the month of March than any other month of the year. Maybe it’s because it’s the turn of the season. Maybe it’s because it’s during this month that we start to feel the heat of the coming summer. Maybe it’s the dryness of the air and the things around us that make us susceptible to fire. It could also be because of our longing for the cool climate of the previous months that we use our electric fans and other cooling appliances a little longer than usual which causes our electric wires to overheat. Whatever the reason, in the event of a fire, it’s not only homes that are destroyed. Businesses in the area are susceptible to fires as well. What’s worse, save for the loss of lives, homes can be rebuilt but most MSMEs who are hit don’t survive since most are unprepared for such calamities.

So how do we ensure the safety of our businesses? As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure so here are 5 tips to fireproof your business:

1. Get the right fire extinguishers. Choosing the appropriate fire extinguishers for your business is easy. Fire extinguishers are classified according to the type of fire they can extinguish (whether electrical, chemical or conventional). Some fire extinguishers can be used for all kinds of fires while some can’t. Make sure to get the right kind of fire extinguishers for your business. Fire extinguisher should be easily accessed in case of emergencies, out of reach of children, near exits, and away from heat sources since prolonged exposure to heat would render your fire extinguisher less effective. Also, be sure to check them and have them serviced regularly.

2. Invest in fireproof cabinets and safes With your fire extinguishers in place, protect important files, records and mementos with durable fireproof file cabinets. One of the reasons that make it harder for an entrepreneur to make it back to his feet after his business is ravaged by fire is the loss of all his important and irreplaceable documents. Avoid this situation by investing in fireproof cabinets to protect your documents and other valuables. Unlike before, more and more companies are in the market today to cater to this need and the price one has to pay for these cabinets is not as extravagant as before. It may seem as an unnecessary expense but it will be worth it in the end.

3.Abide by the Fire and Building Code When building or preparing your area of business, make sure that all requirements in the building code and fire code are met and all necessary clearances and permits are secured. While some would say that the red tape one encounters in securing these permits is a waste of time, making sure that your building or business space is up to code would save you the hassle of having it repaired more often.

4. Regularly check electric and gas lines to avoid accidents Abiding by the building and fire code is not enough, one also must make sure that wear and tear do not contribute to the risk of fires in one’s business. In our effort to lower our production cost, we would often forego the periodic checks we are supposed to do to save money and time. What we don’t realize is that a faulty electrical wiring could cost us more. Making sure that your business space is always in tiptop shape would lessen the chances of break down in production or service.

5. Insure your property With all these in place, we should also consider having our business insured to protect it from events beyond our control. Accidents happen even to the most cautious. These unfortunate events could happen to anyone and it is better to be sure than to be sorry. Having an insurance policy would also help you recover while trading has ceased. The payout would help you in paying your employees and in other expenses until you can get back on your feet again.

Keeping a business afloat is hard enough without the threat of fires and other calamities. The only way we could get through catastrophes is to be prepared. For when we are gearing for the worst, bad things won’t be as bad.

Photo: “Pearl river fire…” by Loco Steve, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.

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