Fire safety presents extra challenges to retail locations. Stores are filled with combustibles that aid the spread of fire and smoke. And confusing store layouts impede escape during emergencies. The results can be expensive: loss of revenue from store closures, and worse, loss of life.
Chain Store Age spoke with three leading fire safety experts as to what steps retailers could take to avert fire disasters. Here are their top 10 recommendations.
1. WATCH THE STOCK
One rule that is an absolute among fire codes nationwide is that racks and displays should not put merchandise within 18 ins. of a sprinkler head.
“Any closer than that and you will block the spray pattern, which should cover a diameter of 8 ft.,” said Mike Rose, CEO of Maspeth, N.Y.-based Academy Fire Protection, which serves some 140,000 retail locations nationwide.
Rose also advises store managers to regularly check that sprinkler concealer caps are in place. The caps prevent the heads from clogging, a special risk in clothing stores with lint in the air.
2. GET SMOKE DETECTORS OUT OF CORNERS
Place smoke detectors a minimum of 18 ins. away from corners. Heat rises — which is why these units are on the ceiling in the first place — but heat levels remain consistent in corners and push smoke away, rendering detectors ineffective.
3. CHECK EMERGENCY EXITS
“Badly maintained exits are something that make fire inspectors particularly nervous,“ said Gregory Harrington, a principal of the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy, Mass., which designs model codes for fire departments. “Open the doors. Make sure they are not locked or blocked. Personnel may decide to store boxes in back of a little-used doorway.”
Red “EXIT” signs over emergency exits should be lit 24-7.
4. CHANGE BATTERIES AFTER POWER OUTAGES
If your store loses power for an extended period, you need to check and most likely replace batteries in exit lights and alarms. Batteries are drained completely when power is out for two days. Building fire panels shoul