How to Prevent Electrical Fires in Commercial Buildings

Electrical fires significantly threaten property damage and loss of life in commercial buildings. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Electrical distribution and lighting was the second leading cause of fires in stores and other mercantile properties from 2009 to 2013. Therefore, preventing electrical fires should be a significant concern for businesses of all sizes, if nothing else, to ensure the safety of employees at all times.
This article will look at the best ways to safeguard life and property.

Preventing Electrical Fires in Your Commercial Building

There are several things you can do to prevent electrical fires in your commercial building:

  • Have your system inspected regularly by qualified electricians. Doing this will help identify potential problems before they cause a fire.
  • The electrician should check the wiring, connections, and appliances for signs of damage or wear.
  • Keep electrical cords and plugs in good condition. Frayed or damaged cables can create a fire hazard.
  • Inspect cords and plugs regularly for any signs of damage.
  • Don't overload circuits. When you plug too many appliances into one circuit, it can overload it and cause a fire.
  • Use a power strip or surge protector to distribute the load evenly across multiple circuits.
  • Use the correct size fuses or circuit breakers for your electrical needs. Using the wrong size fuses or circuit breakers can overload the system and cause a fire.
  • Have an electrician install the right size fuses or circuit breakers for your electrical system.
  • Ground all electrical equipment properly. Doing this will help to prevent electrical fires caused by static electricity or electrical surges.
  • Have an electrician ground all electrical equipment in your building.
  • Keep flammable materials away from electrical equipment. These include things like paper, fabric, and gasoline.
  • Store flammable materials in a safe location away from electrical equipment.
  • Install smoke detectors and fire alarms. Smoke detectors and fire alarms can provide early warning of fires, giving you time to evacuate the building safely. Install fire suppression systems for a first line of defense in the event of an actual fire.
  • Test your smoke detectors and fire alarms often to ensure they work correctly.
  • Train employees on fire safety procedures. All employees should know how to prevent fires, what to do if a fire occurs, and how to spot one. Training should happen regularly.

Common Causes of Electrical Fires in Commercial Buildings

The most common causes of electrical fires in commercial buildings include:

Overloaded circuits: When you plug too many appliances into one circuit or outlet, it can overload and cause a fire.

For example, plugging a space heater, microwave, and coffee maker into the same outlet can overload the circuit, thus causing a fire.

Faulty wiring: Faulty wiring can cause sparks or arcing, leading to a fire.

Faulty wiring happens because of several things, such as old or damaged wiring, improper installation, or rodents chewing on the wires.

Loose connections: Loose connections can cause arcing, leading to a fire.

Loose connections can occur when the wires are not correctly tightened or corroded.

Overheated appliances: Appliances that overheat can cause fires.

Overheating can happen if the appliance doesn't have adequate ventilation or if it is misused.

Sparks from electrical equipment: Electrical equipment that sparks can cause a fire.

Spark may occur if the equipment is not properly maintained or if it is misused.

Signs of an Electrical Fire

The signs of an electrical fire can include:

  • Smoke
  • Burning smell
  • Sparks
  • Hot surfaces
  • Frayed or melted cords
  • Loose or damaged outlets

What to Do If You See an Electrical Fire

If you see an electrical fire, it is essential to act quickly and safely. Here are the steps you should take:

Evacuate the building immediately. Doing this is the most important thing you can do.

If you cannot evacuate the building, move to a safe location away from the fire.

If it is safe to do so, try to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. Use a Class C fire extinguisher for electrical fires.

Be sure to follow the instructions on the fire extinguisher.

If the fire is too large or if you are not sure how to use a fire extinguisher, call 911 immediately.

Fire Codes for Commercial Buildings

In addition to the above, there are many fire codes that commercial buildings must adhere to. These codes help prevent electrical fires and other types of fires. Some of the critical fire codes for commercial buildings include:

The National Electrical Code (NEC): The NEC is a set of electrical safety standards adopted by most states. The NEC covers various electrical issues, including installing wiring, appliances, and equipment.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes: The NFPA publishes several fire safety codes, including the NFPA 70, The National Electrical Code. The NFPA codes are not legally binding, but states and local governments widely adopt them.

Local fire codes: In addition to the NEC and NFPA codes, commercial buildings must also comply with local fire codes. These codes may be more stringent than the NEC or NFPA codes. For example, here are the California Fire Code and the Arizona Fire Code.

Benefits of Having a Fire Safety Plan in Place for Your Commercial Building

A fire safety plan for your commercial building can help prevent electrical and other fires. A fire safety plan should include the following elements:

  • A list of all fire exits, evacuation routes, and evacuation procedures
  • A list of the fire equipment that is available in the building
  • Procedures for using the fire equipment
  • Training for employees on fire safety procedures

How to Get Fire Safety Training for Your Employees

It is essential to train your employees on fire safety procedures. This training should cover the following topics:

  • How to prevent electrical fires
  • How to identify the signs of an electrical fire
  • What to do if they see an electrical fire
  • How to use fire extinguishers
  • How to evacuate the building in the event of a fire

You can get fire safety training for your employees from various sources, including fire departments, fire safety companies, and online training providers.

Penalties for Violating Fire Codes in Commercial Buildings

There are penalties for violating fire codes in commercial buildings. The violation severity will determine each penalty. Some penalties may include fines, citations, and even jail time.

Insurance Implications of Electrical Fires in Commercial Buildings

If an electrical fire occurs in your commercial building, it can enormously impact your insurance coverage. Your insurance company may deny your claim or reduce the amount they pay. Have a good fire safety plan to avoid these problems and keep your electrical system in good condition.

Resources for More Information on Preventing Electrical Fires in Commercial Buildings

Several resources are available to help you learn more about preventing electrical fires in commercial buildings. Some of these resources include:

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA): The NFPA website has a wealth of information on fire safety, including information on preventing electrical fires.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): The website has information on fire safety regulations for commercial buildings.

Your local fire department: Your local fire department can provide information on fire safety in your area.