As facilities managers know, summer brings increased risks of fire hazards that require proactive planning and risk mitigation. With higher use of electrical equipment such as fans and air conditioning, risks of electrical overloads and arson attacks rise. Not to mention that reduced staffing levels can also impact safety practices.
The summer is a great time when the sun is shining and most people are happier, but facilities managers need to implement stringent fire safety measures during this period to minimize risks.
From an increase in forest fires, which threaten not only the lives of those nearby but also the businesses in proximity, to flash floods and rising temperatures, we must ensure that we protect ourselves in the summer. While governments are adding their focus to wildfire resilience, here are some essential tips to ensure that you keep your workplace safe and fire-free this summer.
Inspect and Audit All Fire Safety Equipment
Thorough inspections and audits of all fire safety equipment prior to and during summer are essential. This means that fire sprinkler systems, extinguishers, alarms, and emergency lighting must be properly tested and certified as functioning. Sprinkler heads and lines should be checked for any signs of damage, leaks, or blockages and tested to ensure maximum water pressure.
Extinguishers should be examined for full charges and undamaged hoses and handles. Alarms and monitoring systems should be tested to guarantee immediate notification of any events. Emergency lighting needs to have all backup batteries and connections in working order.
Schedule Maintenance and Upgrades
In addition to inspections by in-house teams, schedule preventative maintenance by certified contractors and electricians for critical fire systems. Have power generators serviced to meet increased electrical loads in the summer. Service cooling systems like HVAC units and fans to promote maximum efficiency and fire-safe operation. All issues identified through inspections and testing must be rectified promptly by qualified technicians.
Consider upgrading critical infrastructure like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide sensors, fire doors, and compartmentalization to further improve safety—updated technology provides increased sensitivity and real-time monitoring of potential issues. Integrate any new systems into emergency plans and test regularly to guarantee effective operation and response.
Monitor AC Usage and Address Electrical Risks
With the temperature rising, it’s important to closely monitor the use of AC units, fans, and all electrical equipment, which can overload systems or pose fire risks if overheating occurs. Ensure AC units are properly installed, grounded, have adequate ventilation, and avoid overloading power boards when using portable electrical equipment.
Implement a “switch it off” policy, requiring electrical equipment be shut off when not in use. Inspect equipment regularly and train staff on electrical safety at work, including safe handling and storage procedures, especially for privately owned items. Provide essential training for all staff on the safe use and handling of electrical equipment to prevent overloading or overheating, especially during peak summer usage.
Don’t Be Complacent About Vacations and Reduced Staff
Maintain daily workplace inspections, safety checks, and emergency plan reviews even when staffing levels decrease. Review fire emergency response plans, evacuation procedures, and equipment use with all onsite staff when numbers dip to guarantee maximum capability; practice fire drills to ensure response levels remain adequate.
Set minimum “on-the-ground” team levels for summer, factoring in various team absences or time off. For example, stipulate that no less than 20% of regular facility, health and safety, and fire warden staff must be available at any given time to maintain a safe operating environment.
Manage Outdoor Combustible Materials
Trim plants, trees, and shrubs around building exteriors to remove potential fuel sources and ensure clearance of at least 3 meters (about 10 feet). Schedule regular yard waste and vegetation disposal in appropriate containers located away from structures.
Control flammable chemicals and hazardous waste by storing them in detached facilities away from the central workplace. Reduce outdoor refuse around smoking areas, and post signage to reinforce smoke-free policies.
Provide Essential Summer Fire Safety Training for All Staff
Train all staff on proper use of fire extinguishers, evacuation procedures, and emergency plan requirements, especially during the summer season. Review the major causes of workplace fires in the summer, like electrical overloads and arson, and how to effectively prevent and respond to them. Remind employees of the effects of complacency in reduced staffing scenarios and the need for shared responsibility in fire safety at all times.
Consider Increasing Security Monitoring
While the threat may be minimal, increase CCTV monitoring and foot patrols, especially after hours, to reduce the risk of arson attacks during the summer. It’s important to protect your assets, with the average repair cost for warehouse facilities from fires at $128,099, which is enough to threaten closure for many companies.
Look for any signs of unauthorized access, tampering, or damage done to critical fire systems like generators, extinguishers, alarms, and sprinklers. Ensure maximum deterrence against potential criminal activity threatening fire safety.
Train employees on basic workplace fire prevention strategies so they take an active role in identifying and reducing hazards daily. Key responsibilities include restricting ignition sources, using equipment properly according to guidelines, clearing egress routes and fire doors, maintaining pedestrian access to fire safety facilities, and safe handling or storage of flammable substances.
Protect Your Business from Summer Fires
With proactive planning, risk mitigation, and increased vigilance, facilities managers can effectively optimize fire safety during the summer season. By inspecting and auditing fire systems, monitoring electrical and AC usage closely, maintaining emergency plans and training, controlling outdoor fire risks ,and increasing security, facilities managers reduce hazards even with higher risks and reduced staffing.
Reviewing and strengthening fire emergency preparedness plans before summer helps provide the best possible safety levels when staff absences increase and complacency threatens to take hold. Implementing best practices deters crises and safeguards infrastructure, property, and business continuity all season long.
Through shared training, education, and responsibility, staff members empower themselves and each other to identify and avoid dangers so everyone goes home each day in the summer heat.
Chester Avey has over a decade of experience in business growth management and cybersecurity. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with other like-minded professionals through his writing. You can connect with Chester by following him on Twitter @ChesterAvey