An office fire is the last thing on everyone's mind when they go to work; yet the potential danger of an office fire is an ever-present threat. In 2013, Richard Campbell from the National Fire Protection Association analyzed collected data from 2007-2011 to assess just how frequent structural fires were in office properties, as well as the financial impact and the trends that often lead up these incidents.
Over that five year period, he estimated that U.S. fire departments had to respond to 16,700 fires on office properties, an average of 3,340 fires per year. On average, per year, those fires accounted for almost $122 million in property damage. Although most of the fires (29%) were reportedly started by cooking equipment, the majority of actual property damage (20%) came from fires that were intentionally set.
So what does this mean for your business? What measures can you take to be prepared as the world moves toward a safer place for its workers? Methods for egress, fire protection, sprinkler systems, emergency lighting and having special hazard protection on hand are all steps that are incredibly beneficial for facing a disaster such as an office fire and are, in some cases, required for commercial properties.
Since National Business Furniture prides itself on being specialists in office furniture, we can help you make decisions as you search for furniture that will help you decrease the chances of creating a fire hazard, as well as protect your important documents from possible incineration – or, equally as bad – water damage after the fire has been extinguished.
Let's start small with something we can all relate to – the office heater. As much as many of us enjoy the warmth and comfort those little things can provide throughout the colder months, they are notoriously dangerous. Lori Carli, vice president of communications at the National Fire Protection Association, noted back in 2010 that space heaters and nearby flammable objects should be kept at least three feet apart, as half of fatal home space heater fires began due to a nearby object igniting. At work, where dust, papers and computer wiring are in close quarters, it should be a warning that we all heed. National Business Furniture has taken this to heart by eliminating the use of space heaters in our office, instead encouraging employees to use heated chairs such as the Comfortemp (in which this author is currently sitting). The heated coils are contained, and it comes with an automatic shut-off.
Fire retardant foams and upholsteries are now commonplace in most (if not all) seating options, and have contributed in large to a decline in fires and fire deaths since the 1970's. That doesn't mean they prevent furniture from catching on fire – rather, they slow the spread of fire drastically, buying time for individuals to douse the flames or escape. For those concerned with the potentially harmful chemicals found in fire retardant materials, rest assured! California has made strides with several technical bulletins in recent years to reduce toxic fire retardant chemicals in the state and replace them with safer chemical alternatives, and it's a trend that many manufacturers are following.
But what if you take all of the necessary precautions and your facility still experiences an office fire? Whether you have automatic sprinklers set up or the fire department gets the blaze under control with hoses, you're going to have a very wet building on your hands. All of those important HR documents, tax information, invoices, customer lists and other files are going to be soggy toast. Standard metal filing cabinets will become heated conduits to destruction, and if the flames don't get to them then the dripping water will. National Business Furniture has a solution in the form of specially designed filing cabinets and safes that are both fire-resistant and waterproof. National Business Furniture's exclusive NBF Signature Series Duravault filing cabinets are ideal for those situations, with a solid one-hour protection rating and moisture-resistant walls in the event of an office fire. For other items, such as money, valuables, keys and important work items, these Phoenix safes can keep precious contents protected for up to two hours, and they won't allow water to damage the goods.
There are a myriad of ways in which you can safeguard your business against the dangers of an office fire and minimize the post-fire property damages. National Business Furniture can help you find the furniture you need to achieve peace of mind by providing upfront solutions. Call our furniture specialists today and talk to a knowledge representative who can help you determine what fire-retardant furnishings your facility could benefit from.