AIE wants to make it as convenient as possible for you to lower the chance of fire in your retail store by providing prevention strategies you can easily implement to minimize fire risk. Therefore, we have compiled the top 5 tips for fire safety in retail stores. This useful advice from fire protection experts can be used to create a retail store safety checklist to make sure you stay on track today and remain fire safety compliant in the future.

Fire Hazards Can Be Everywhere: Practice Fire Safety in Retail Businesses

No matter what type of retail store you own or manage or what you sell, it’s important to realize there can be fire hazards everywhere. Because of this, it is as essential to train employees on fire prevention methods and fire protection equipment as it is to have the right fire protection systems in place.

Potential fire hazards in retail stores:

  • Electrical wiring/outlets
  • Lighting
  • Gas lines
  • HVAC/furnace systems and motors
  • Kitchen/breakroom cooking appliances
  • Potentially flammable products like chemicals, clothing, paper
  • Vandals
  • Lightening

How to Create a Fire Protection Plan & Prevention Strategy

So, how do you implement fire prevention strategies that improves the chances of keeping your customers, employees, and business safe? Start by creating a fire protection plan using the steps below and follow your local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and NFPA regulations.

According to the 2009-2108 FEMA Fire Estimate Summary, in 2018, 103,600 commercial buildings experienced fires, 10,000 of which were set intentionally, resulting in $2.7 billion in total losses.

#1 – Fire Prevention as Part of Daily Routine

The best thing you can do to practice fire safety in retail stores is to make fire prevention part of your daily routine. Implement a daily retail store safety checklist that must be initialed by employees assigned to clean throughout the day and ensure everything is off and/or unplugged at closing time.

Things to Include in Your Daily Retail Store Safety Checklist:

Make inspections and repair and maintenance of electrical wires, gas lines, plumbing, utility connections, and all fire-protection equipment part of your regular routine to ensure they don’t become a fire hazard and that they work when needed. 

Keep flammable items such as paper, clothing, and chemicals away from electrical outlets, flames, and static electricity. If you have a kitchen or breakroom with a hot plate, toaster, or cooking surface, keep it grease-free and clear of clutter. The most common cause of commercial fires is cooking (over 30,000 year).

Stop trash from overflowing and put it in the dumpster as needed rather than just near the door. This opens doorways and evacuation paths in case of emergency and keeps flammables away from running electrical and gas appliances, the furnace or air conditioner, overheated motors, machinery, or even smoldering cigarette butts. Maintaining clean, uncluttered work areas keeps the fire load to a minimum.

#2 – Inspect Fire Extinguishers Monthly & Know Where They Are

Portable fire extinguishers and their maintenance are crucial to fire safety and prevention in retail stores and businesses. If you need one and can’t find it or it doesn’t work, your entire business could go up in flames fast.

Here are the basic fire extinguisher rules and recommendations:

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Travel distance to the nearest fire extinguisher is no more than 75 feet in any given direction.

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Make sure you have the right extinguisher for the area. ABC-class extinguishers put out fires caused by flammable liquids, electronic equipment, and burning paper or plastic. K-class are meant to be used in kitchens and within 30 ft. of cooking equipment.

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Extinguishers must be within easy reach and everyone needs to be trained on where they are and how to use them.

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OSHA and NFPA require monthly inspections to ensure the pressure gauge is on full (needle to green), the hose intact, and the pin securely in place. Monthly inspections can be performed by officially trained employees who initial and date the backside of the tag. Annual inspections must be performed by a certified professional and reported to the appropriate organizations.

It can be challenging to remember how to use an extinguisher when under stress, so it is helpful to memorize the acronym PASTPull the pin, Aim at the base, Sweep and Spray from Ten feet away.

Fire Safety in Retail Stores: Ensure routine fire equipment servicing & maintenance

#3 – Proper Fire-Safety Employee Training

Make sure your staff receives proper fire safety training. Only with proper employee training and adherence to NFPA and OSHA fire safety standards can you provide the best fire protection for retail stores, customers, and staff. 

Teach all employees fire-safety protocol, evacuation procedures, and the use of fire safety equipment right away. Ensure they know where all fire extinguishers and fire exits are located and how to calmly get customers and each other out of the building. Hold a mandatory annual fire safety refresher course for all staff.

It is also recommended to designate certain employees per shift to shut off gas and electrical power in case of emergency. Assign others to be emergency “evacuation managers” who call 911 and get everyone out of the store should there be a fire alarm or threat.

#4 – Inspect & Maintain Your Fire Sprinkler & Support

Code-compliant, working fire sprinklers and/or fire suppression systems are your best defense against fire damage and loss of life once a fire has begun, regardless of the size of your store or its merchandise.

Unfortunately, not every retail business is required by law to have a fire sprinkler or suppression system, but if you do, they may be of no use to anyone unless you inspect and maintain them. Routine fire sprinkler inspections and maintenance can reduce fire damage and ensure your locations are as safe as possible.

Depending on the type of system you have and your hazard classification, quarterly and annual inspections are mandated by NFPA code and must be performed by a state-licensed technician. If you need repairs or maintenance, it is best to use an experienced, certified technician with a satisfaction guarantee. AIE offers all fire protection and life-safety inspections, maintenance, and repair services nationwide, satisfaction-guaranteed.

Did you know, a licensed sprinkler inspector can legally inspect your backflow preventors, but a backflow inspector cannot, by code, inspect your sprinkler system? Save time and money by using a licensed fire sprinkler inspector to do both

#5 – Add Fire Alarm Monitoring

Fire alarm monitoring can reduce response time when a fire occurs in a retail business. If a fire alarm goes off in your store, a fire alarm monitoring device assesses the signal to rule out a false alarm (which can save panic and upheaval) and instantly transmits a real fire emergency to first responders. The fire department can be on its way often before a person can call 911 or physically get help, especially when trapped by fire. 

Fire alarm monitoring is also useful if there is a fire when your store is closed and nobody is there. This is more common than most people realize. Arsonists were responsible for setting 10,200 non-residential fires in 2018, a 15% increase over ten years. Fire alarm monitoring cuts down on fire fighter notification time and speeds up their arrival, saving merchandise, property, and most importantly – lives.

Fire Safety in Retail Stores with routine fire equipment servicing & maintenance

Maximize Fire Safety in Retail Stores & Minimize Fire Risk

Fire risk is higher than most retail store owners and managers realize. Utilizing these tips to create a fire protection plan and retail store safety checklist is imperative to the safety of your business. By sharing these 5 fire safety tips, AIE hopes you see just how easy and cost-effective, yet critical, fire prevention strategies and safety measures are to minimize fire danger, keep your customers and staff safe, and add to the longevity of your business.

If you have questions about this article or would like to partner with one nationwide fire safety source that specializes in mid-size to big-box retail facilities, contact AIE’s fire experts today, 800-892-9863. We’ve worked with retail stores of many sizes to ensure their locations are as safe as possible.