While fires are not all that common at rental operations, they usually are devastating when they do occur. But it is not just the fire that puts an operation into chaos. It is everything else that results, according to ARA Insurance preferred agent Al Jones, CIC, ARM, J.A. Jones Insurance Services, Austin, Texas.
To drill that home, Jones poses the following questions — all of which rental operators could face if a fire happens at their operations:
- Would you be able to support your clients if the fire prevented you from having access to your facility?
- Could you quickly find temporary storage for your undamaged equipment or find a new facility to continue operating out of?
- How would you obtain new equipment with the current supply chain backlog?
- Are you adequately insured regarding replacement cost, debris removal, business income, and extra expense and blanket coverages?
“That is why rental operators need to take the inspections and advice offered by the fire marshal and ARA Insurance seriously,” he says. “It is incumbent for every building owner/lessee to be familiar with your local building and fire codes. Please take the time to contact your local fire department and schedule an inspection through the fire prevention division.”
According to Jones and Tom Afflixio, retired battalion fire chief in the San Francisco Bay Area, the most obvious trouble spots are:
Temporary wiring/overloaded extension cords. “Extension cords are a major source of warehouse fires and not a replacement for permanent wiring. They are not to be used to run cash registers, heaters, lights, dishwashers or microwaves. You need to have a licensed electrician come in and run the proper wiring with conduits and proper outlets. You can’t cut corners,” Afflixio says.
Oily rags. “We had a big fire claim a number of years ago in which oily rags spontaneously combusted. That caused a huge fire,” Jones says. “We require rental operators to have a fire-rated red can with a self-closing lid that is UL-approved and fire-rated with a gold tag on it. Dirty rags, whether they have linseed or oil from gasoline or diesel, need to go in that can during the day. They should never be thrown on the floor, in the corner or deposited in a regular metal can.”
Flammable solvents. “These need to be stored in special lockers. They are usually red and say ‘flammable storage,’” Afflixio says. In addition, if there are different chemicals used, they need to be kept safely away from any flammable source as “that could create a flash and cause a fire,” he says.
Along with that, rental operations should have fire extinguishers and sprinklers. Both need to be maintained and serviced on a regular basis, according to Jones and Afflixio.
“When the fire sprinkler system was installed, they also should have put a box on the wall that houses a sprinkler wrench and the spare sprinkler heads that are fire-rated to a specific degree. You can’t block or hide it or store anything around the sprinkler riser. There needs to be proper access. Safety is no accident,” Afflixio says.
“The bottom line is that rental operators need to take the inspections and recommendations seriously,” Jones says. “They also need to talk with their insurance agent and make sure they are appropriately covered because the cost of rebuilding your operation has increased dramatically. The above suggestions are generalities, however, and not considered a replacement for your local fire codes. And rental operators have to remember that the cost of implementing any recommended change or increase in insurance coverage is minimal compared with the costs that add up after a fire. Everyone needs to be prepared.”