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Risks of Fires at Retail Businesses

When we talk about big business in the United States, instantly what comes to mind is retail. Service, products, goods – that’s the raw material the American dream for many people. In a capitalist country, you can use your creativity to make money. However when people start a business, they often envision a successful future, which is good, but the reality is that sometimes devastating events can happen, things that are not in our control. Both on large and small scales, these events can truly impact a business. Today we’re going to see how fires in particular have impacted the retail industry, with hopes of learning a few lessons to prevent them in the future.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides incredibly helpful information and resources. They recently did a study on fires at retail businesses in the timeframe of 2009 to 2013. For the sake of definition, when we say retail and mercantile properties, this would include barber and beauty shops, laundry services, vehicle repair shops, service stations, retail stores, dry cleaning, pet stores, etc.

Every year, local fire departments respond to about 13,570 fires at retail locations, as defined above. Annually, 12 people died in these events, on average, and 289 people were hurt. When we're discussing property damage, the loss was estimated at approximately $604 million.

When identifying the causes for these retail fires, the top three that had an impact were cooking equipment at 21%. Lighting and electrical distribution equipment caused fires 15% of the time, and then surprising enough intentionally set fires at 11% along with heating equipment at 11%. The kinds of fires that did the most damage were lighting and electrical distribution fires, resulting in 27% of the damage. Arson was responsible for 20% of the damage.

When we look at the human loss of life, the highest incidents were due to cooking fires at 33% and right behind it was heating-related fires at 28%. Another thing that the study revealed was that fires related to heating  - for example, heat sources that were too close to flammable items were a factor in 9% of the fires. However, 40% of deaths occur because of fires from this source.

The timing of the fires is another interesting thing to consider. Most of the time, the fires occurred during the day, but the fires that occurred when the businesses were closed had the most property damage. Day time fires resulted in about $33,900 in property damage, and nighttime fires – 9 PM to 5 AM - had about $73,800 in damages. This should be a glaring reminder of how important it is to have automatic response systems such as sprinkler and fire department notification.

It’s also interesting to note the types of businesses that suffered the loss from fires. The highest occurrence of fires were at grocery or convenience stores  - 28% of the fires, or 3,740. The kinds of stores that had the lowest incidents of fire were textile and apparel shops with only 260  per year -just 2%!

Even with these occurrences play incidence of fire retail at mercantile property is moving in the right direction. In the past 35 years, fires have been reduced by 63% – from 37,500 in 1980 to 14,000 in 2012

It’s easy to gather that progress in fire prevention as well as instruction in fire safety have likely been reasons for this. In 72% of the fires, the fires didn't travel past the room the fire began in, another nod to effective FDNY and Building Codes regulations.

Retailers, especially with physical merchandise on-site, have a much to lose if a fire did occur. For this reason, employing the best and most recent fire prevention practices is a must. It’s crucial that all FDNY laws are followed as well as just having wise fire prevention habits.

Flameproofing is one way to protect your business property. While it’s a law for any place where the public gathers, it is absolutely a life-saving measure. In a fire, fabrics, textiles, materials, and decorative items that have been treated with flame repellents are non-flammable, and therefore won't contribute to the spread and severity of a fire. So in the unfortunate event of a fire, property can be spared, and lives can be saved.

If you have flameproofing needs or other questions and concerns about fire safety at your retail or business location, give us a call at ManhattanFlameproofing. We have been industry leaders in New York City and beyond for over 5 decades. We’d be pleased to add you to our list of satisfied customers both here in New York City and the Greater NY Metro area. We also can offer you a free, no-obligation estimate: 1-800-268-7993.







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