Fire safety is a vital consideration when building any sort of structure, however the nature of the self-storage business calls for more urgent attention to fire prevention and safety measures. The fire at a Shurgard self storage location in the UK last year was a catastrophic tragedy, with the fire destroying upwards of 1000 units, causing the loss of both irreplaceable personal items as well as the inventory of small businesses. While fires are undoubtedly terrible incidents, there are various measures you can employ to reduce the risk of fire or at the very least reduce the level of damage in the unfortunate event that a fire does occur. In this post we’ll look at the most important fire safety measures to have at your own self-storage facility.
What causes a fire?
Overcrowding of units
Tenants will often be inclined towards renting the smallest space to be more cost-effective, but oftentimes stuffing too many things in close proximity to one another is a recipe for disaster when it comes to fire prevention. In many cases, overpacked storage units will be filled with a myriad of combustible materials, such as cardboard boxes, loose paper, or fabric. Having this compounded across an entire facility poses a heavy risk if a fire breaks.
Poor extinguishing supplies
The most effective way to prevent a big fire is to have extinguishing supplies on hand, whether a sprinkler system or the regular fire extinguisher. However, if they aren’t installed properly, cover too small an area, or aren’t equipped to handle the type of fire started, this extinguishing equipment is essentially useless. Further, if the water pressure at your property is too low, it may struggle to support the suppression systems you’ve installed.
Lack of detection systems
Most commonly, fires at self-storage are detected either by staff on site or with an electric detection system. In many cases, fires break out because the facility lacks an automated system to detect the early stages of a fire, such as smoke or intense heat. As a result, unless you can ensure round the clock supervision of the facility by staff, your facility must have well-fitted and appropriately placed detection systems.
Some of the biggest fires that break out in storage facilities are the result of either human error or arson. These mistakes can include smoking near flammable materials, faulty installation of HVAC systems or other electrical equipment, and storing prohibited items in their storage unit. Further, while arson of self-storage facilities isn’t the most common cause for a fire, it is responsible for some of the biggest. Unfortunately, these crimes are deliberate and designed to destroy as much property as possible.
How to best prevent fires
Fire risk assessment
The most effective and also the simplest step to improve fire safety is to have a fire risk assessment done at your facility. This will evaluate an array of inherent factors that count towards your facility’s fire safety, such as the structure’s age, condition, layout, paths where smoke can travel, and much more. On top of this, the assessment will also consider who works in the facility, at which locations, the amount of fire safety signage in the facility and existing protocols for fire prevention. After the assessment, a report will be produced advising you the largest areas of improvement for your facility, and instruct you on recommended actions.
Continuous upkeep of equipment
As mentioned, the equipment for both fire detection and suppression at your facility are vital, so it’s important to continuously check on the condition of the equipment and systems, making sure they are all functioning properly and appropriate for their use. Make sure to have the correct level grading for your fire extinguishers, have working sprinklers, and check that the electrical detection systems still function correctly. Having clear and visible fire exit signage is also extremely important for ensuring the safety of both your staff and clients. Also make sure you have working CCTV, which will help spot fires more easily, without the need for a dedicated patrol member. Your company could also offer fire resistant storage containers, which will not only give the client more peace of mind, but also reduce the chance of a fire spreading.
Fully trained staff
With equipment all checked, your storage facility’s staff now also have to be up to scratch. Make sure that they’re all trained in how to respond to a fire, that they know who to call, and what to do to suppress the fire for as long as they can before firefighters arrive. Further, ensure you have a clear protocol set out for evacuation, both for staff and clients. Have consistent fire drills so that your staff can act on instinct in case of the real event.
Fires at self-storage facilities are sadly more common than they should be, and often are caused by the many factors explored above. However, if you follow the steps listed, you can ensure that your facility is fully prepared to prevent and deal with a fire if one does break out on your property.
Related Article: 7 Tips Before Setting Up Your Self-Storage Facility