Alt Title: How Storage Facility Owners Can Implement a Fire Prevention Strategy
As any storage facility owner knows, stuff happens. Items break, people don’t pay on time, locks get cut, and fingers always get pointed back at you. But if there’s a worst-case scenario – something you absolutely can’t have happen – it’s a widespread fire in your facility.
The Consequences of a Storage Facility Fire
Many storage facility owners don’t see fire as much of a threat. They’re much more focused on issues like theft and burglary – fire sort of rests on the back burner (no pun intended). Owners often assume that because their facilities are made of metal and concrete, they’re largely protected against a fire, even if one were to occur. Unfortunately, that’s simply not true.
“The intense heat produced by a fire can cause metal to distort and concrete to crack, resulting in permanent structural damage,” InsideSelfStorage.com notes. “Uncommon as it may be, it's not unheard of for both the building and pad to be demolished and replaced as a result of fire damage. Fire is one of the most devastating losses a storage owner will ever experience. The after effects of a fire are even more tragic.”
A fire is not only a possibility – it will wreak havoc if not properly contained and suppressed. Consequences include:
Direct damage. First off, there’s the direct damage that a fire causes. This refers to the actual physical damage that a fire causes to the facility. This may include melting metal, cracking concrete, or even burning entire wooden structures to the ground.
Response damage. When firefighters arrive on the scene, their number one priority is to make sure people are safe. They do this by stopping the fire. In order to assure the fire doesn’t spread out of control, they’ll often ax their way through doors and use large amounts of both water and flame retardant to prevent neighboring units and structures from becoming engulfed in flames.
Smoke damage. Even after a fire is put out, the smoke damage can be extensive. Trying to remove this smell is a very expensive and time-consuming endeavor (and it’s not always possible to eliminate 100 percent of the odor).
Damage to personal contents. Let’s not forget about the damage that fire causes to your renters’ personal items. In many cases, these are expensive items (possibly even family heirlooms). And while you likely require your renters to carry insurance, it’s still a major headache. You can expect to spend weeks (if not months) speaking with insurance companies and working through mountains of paperwork.
Lost rent. It can take months for a storage facility to reopen after a fire. This can seriously restrict your revenue, kill your cash flow, and put you at risk of not being able to pay your bills.
Reputation damage. Finally, there’s a consequence that doesn’t get discussed nearly enough. We’re talking about the damage to your reputation. Whether right or wrong, your facility will become remembered by the community as the one that “caught on fire.” This image sticks in people’s minds and may keep you from generating future business.
As you can see, the damage a fire creates goes far beyond just the flames. The consequences include damages to physical property, time, finances, and even reputation. In other words, there’s a lot on the line for storage facility owners.
4 Storage Facility Fire Prevention and Containment Tips
As a storage facility owner or manager, your first priority is preventing storage fires. Your second priority is to suppress a fire if one occurs. What follows are several tips to help you accomplish both of these goals.
Understand the Risks
The first step is to understand the risks you face. The most common risks for storage facilities are things like:
Overcrowded storage units, which become a huge fire risk when compounded over an entire facility.
Improper storage of items, including gasoline, propane, fuel, lighters, matches, toxic chemicals, and other highly-flammable substances.
Believe it or not, human error and arson are two primary causes of fire in self-storage facilities. This includes individuals smoking too closely to storage units that contain improperly stored items, such as gasoline or other flammable materials.
Set Clear Rules
The second step is to set very clear rules for your storage facility. For example, you must make it clear that smoking is not allowed on the premises or within 100 feet of a unit. Likewise, you should mention in conversations, lease agreements, and via signage that things like gasoline and propane tanks aren’t permitted to be stored in storage units.
Use Smart Construction
If designing, building, or renovating storage units, think intelligently about construction. Simple additions like firewalls, barriers, and the location of water sources and extinguishers can help you stay one step ahead.
Install Fire Suppression Systems
If you want to keep your storage facility protected, it’s not enough to have plans for preventing fires. Even the best plans and most thorough safeguards will fail from time to time. You also need strategies for suppressing fires so that small flames don’t become serious outbreaks.
There are plenty of fire suppression systems on the market. However, many of them rely on water to douse the fire and kill the flame. This can work, but water has disastrous consequences for both your property and the personal belongings inside each unit.
Because of the damage water causes, many storage facility owners are turning to something called dry chemical fire suppression systems. These systems use dry chemical compounds like sodium bicarbonate and mono-ammonium phosphate to quickly knock down fire at the molecular level by “powder coating” the fuel.
In layman’s terms, this means it interrupts the chemical reaction taking place by separating the fuel from oxygen.
Protect Your Storage Facility With CeaseFire
The right fire suppression system can go a long way toward protecting your self storage facility and keeping it safe. At CeaseFire, our dry chemical fire suppression systems work to immediately extinguish fires without causing significant damage to the surrounding facility and personal property contained within.
Want to learn more about how we can help protect your facility? Contact CeaseFire today!