Alt Title: How to Prevent Warehouse Fires
If you own or manage a warehouse, you have to be especially cognizant of the risk of fire. But it’s not enough to be aware – you need to proactively prevent fires before they start by lowering your risk level.
The Cost and Consequences of Warehouse Fires
When it comes to your warehouse, few risks pose a greater threat than a fire. From safety to finances and everything in between, a single fire can threaten to compromise everything you've worked so hard for over the years.
In 2016, Gap Inc.’s primary distribution center in Fishkill, NY caught fire. The center, which accounted for about 30 percent of the company’s total distribution space and 10 percent of all orders, was immediately shut down. Gap was forced to make quick pivots. This included paying huge sums to redirect goods to other distribution centers.
In 2021, a warehouse fire in a facility jointly owned by Ocado Group and Marks & Spencer Group resulted in millions of dollars in damage and as much as $50 million in lost revenue. Sales fell by 11 percent during that quarter, and the company experienced significant operating losses. It was the second serious fire at an Ocado warehouse in a span of 36 months.
These are just two examples of costly warehouse fires that have threatened to take down two very large companies. Now imagine what a single fire could do to your business.
According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, there are roughly 1,210 warehouse fires each year. These fires lead to an estimated $155 million in total property damage and hundreds of millions of dollars in additional supply chain losses and sales disruptions.
“The impact of a fire in a warehouse can be devastating for a supply chain, especially given the long standing trend towards centralization of inventory,” supply chain risk writer John Manners-Bell told Supply Chain Dive. “Even if the fire is localized within the warehouse and brought quickly under control, smoke and water damage can be extensive.”
Whether you have a 3,000-square-foot warehouse or a 300,000-square-feet warehouse, fire will always pose a threat. The key is mitigating this risk as much as possible by setting up the proper processes, technology, and safeguards.
5 Tips for Preventing Warehouse Fires
There are plenty of ways that you can respond to a warehouse fire to mitigate the ancillary supply chain effects. However, the best way to limit a fire’s impact on your business is to prevent and/or contain it in the first place. Here are several ways to do just that:
- Conduct Regular Assessments
The first step is to conduct regular fire risk assessments. These should be embedded into your monthly routines. (They should also be performed anytime there’s a major change to your warehouse or facility.)
Every company operates differently, but a fire risk assessment usually involves assessing the risk and probability of a fire, as well as the consequences. It emphasizes the implementation of specific measures for preventing or reducing these risks.
In a commercial setting, such as a warehouse, it’s best to hire a professional fire assessment team that knows specifically what to look for. While there are things that your team can inspect internally (more on that later), the major systems and risk factors should be left up to the pros.
- Maintain Your Equipment
Every warehouse faces different risks. Your biggest risk might be your equipment. When improperly managed and maintained, faulty equipment can increase the risk of fire by as much as 10-fold. This is especially true when there’s gas, oil, propane, or open flames involved. By maintaining equipment, you lower the risk of something malfunctioning and causing a fire.
- Install the Right Fire Suppression System
You can do everything possible to reduce the risk of fire, but you can’t totally eliminate it. Fire is a powerful force of raw nature. All it takes is a small spark and the results can be disastrous. However, if you have the right fire suppression system in place, you can quickly quell a fire and keep it contained to a small footprint.
Over the years, most fire suppression systems have been water-based. In other words, when smoke triggers the system, it sets off a sprinkler, which floods the area with water. And while this can be effective, it has the unintended consequence of also damaging your facility, equipment, etc.
Today, there are more advanced fire suppression systems. This includes dry chemical fire suppression systems. As the name suggests, these systems use dry chemical agents to attack fire at a molecular level. This interrupts the chemical reaction of the fire without using any water.
At CeaseFire, we design our fire suppression systems with high-pressure nitrogen that discharges via nozzles connected to a piped system. This extinguishes the fire in seconds with limited smoke and damage.
- Have Fire Extinguishers on Hand
While it’s necessary to have a fire suppression system built into your warehouse, the hope is that you won’t have to use it. By having plenty of fire extinguishers on hand, you increase your response time. If employees notice a fire, they can simply reach for an extinguisher and begin putting out small flames before they become serious disasters.
- Train Employees
Train your team in these specific areas:
- To identify fire risks. Your team should take time each day to inspect their work area and any machinery they use. These inspections should take place at the start and end of each shift.
- To properly respond to fires. If a fire does occur, your team should be trained on how to respond. Each employee should know exactly what to do, where to locate fire alarms/extinguishers, and who to contact.
If your team knows how to identify risks and properly respond to fires, you’ll find that your warehouse faces a much lower threat of being compromised by a serious fire. Yes, it takes time to train employees, but the long-term ROI is clear.
CeaseFire Warehouse Fire Suppression Systems
At CeaseFire, we specialize in producing dry chemical fire suppression systems that can be used for a wide range of applications. Many of our clients use our systems in warehouses to quickly and effectively limit the spread of fire once there’s smoke or flames present in the building. And because our systems use dry chemicals rather than water, there’s less likelihood of long-term damage to the facility.
Want to learn more about our fire suppression systems? Please contact us today, and we’d be happy to provide a free quote and walk you through some of the different options for your facility.