Risky Business: Earth, wind, water, fire and smoke
By Ashleigh Petersen Mary Ann Gormly

Risky Business: Earth, wind, water, fire and smoke

How to prevent a fire in your business

A man arrived for work early in the morning and saw water running out of the building, through the parking lot and into the dirt beyond the lot. He called his brother and business partner and asked him if he knew what was going on. As they spoke on the phone, he opened the door and was met by the owner of the building, the smell of fire and a lot of smoke.

The office area and the warehouse in the back of the building had gone up in flames overnight. The man was not able to get too far into the building because it was still an active fire scene. They allowed him to remain in the showroom with the owner of the building and the fire marshal just long enough for statements to be taken and then everyone had to evacuate the area. He met his brother in the parking lot and told him all he knew.

Initial reports were that the fire seemed to have started in the office area but there was a lot of damage, and they couldn’t be sure. It may have been an overload of an electrical outlet in the office area as there were a lot of things plugged in. He also stated that the rental store had some roof leaks, and he does not know if water may have gotten into the conduit.

The owner of the building and the owners of the rental business all agreed they needed to open claims with their respective insurance companies.

Adjusters with each insurance company inspected the area and saw that the fire caused heavy smoke and soot damage to the building as well as the rental store’s inventory and business personal property. A lot of the equipment sustained damages due to heat.

The insurer for the building together with the local fire department opened a cause and origin investigation. The fire burned too hot and too long to determine cause. The insurer for the building covered the cost to re-build and the insurer for the rental store covered the cost of the rental equipment, business personal property and business expense. The business did not experience any downtime because they had another location nearby in town and they were able to operate out of that location.

Total damages — excluding the amount of damage to the building — came to just under $500,000.

The same thing could happen to you.

Take a walk around your buildings and look for unsafe fire starters, such as:

  • Overloaded outlets.
  • Combustibles within close proximity to heat sources.
  • Oily rags laying around and not placed in non-combustible containers.
  • Expired fire extinguishers.
  • Doors without proper labeling. Are they an exit? Do they go further into the building?
  • Employees who do not know how to use a fire extinguisher.

Be prepared — do what you can to prevent a fire before it happens.

Mary Ann Gormly is a loss analyst for ARA Insurance, Overland Park, Kan. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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