Are you one of the property owners of the temporarily unoccupied property or empty, vacant commercial buildings like restaurants or retail stores? Do you own possession of an unoccupied building or property? If these are the cases, it is vital to consider fire risk assessment to protect vacant commercial property. You cannot think like there’s nobody inside or using the unoccupied building, you have no obligations when it comes to fire safety. When it comes to fire safety regulations the same rules apply to both empty and occupied buildings.
Here, a question arises like, what are the fire safety risks in empty buildings? There are several reasons for which vacant properties have different fire risks, including the lack of activity, no checks, and active presence on the site. Generally, empty buildings can become shelters for vagrants, and thus, they are hotspots for antisocial behavior, and the biggest concern from antisocial behavior is arson or fire-bombing. While their staying, the beggars can bring in an excess of materials that could escalate a fire if one broke out. Furthermore, pests can be an issue in vacant buildings. When no one is around, pests may move in, and they can chew through wires, and it causes electrical fires.
What do you need to practice for Fire Risk Management of unoccupied & vacant buildings?
There are several steps to follow for minimizing risk and protecting your assets in an idle, unoccupied or vacant building, thus, your property should remain safe until you can return to stay or business-as-usual.
Inspect Your Building Daily Using Certain Checklist
It is advisable to go inside your vacant property daily to minimize fire risk and avoid significant loss. An unattended property or unoccupied store can be a place to take shelter, set up camp, and set fires, which increases the risks of major loss and injury due to fire tragedy. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “about half of all vacant commercial building fires are intentionally set”.
Though most fire fighting systems or fire safety equipment such as Fire Extinguishers, Fire Alarms, Fire Sprinkler Systems etc. are very reliable, then it’s essential to physically inspect the premises for checking the following list of things:
- Broken windows, doors, locks, and non-working lights especially those on timers
- A fire alarm that isn't working
- A leaky water pipe or sprinkler head
- Electrical shorts or issues
- Gas odor, Mold/mildew
- Unwanted pests (keep up pest control)
- Roof and/or storm/water damage (as needed)
- Signs of squatters that are out of camera-reach
Lessen Fire Risks in Vacant Commercial Buildings
As fire is extremely difficult to come back from, you being a property owner must take steps to practice the best vacant building management, mitigate the property risks, and manage the potential challenges. There are three important steps that you should incorporate for fire protection, including check your fire extinguishers regularly and continue with quarterly NFPA-required fire alarm and sprinkler system inspections. Also, some other steps to mitigate fire hazards are as follows:
- Maintain a building temperature of at least 40°F, hence, sprinkler system pipes do not freeze.
- Keep the installed sprinkler systems in an unlocked, open position.
- For water supplies that rely on fire pumps, ensure the fuel or power to water pumps is maintained and tested as per NFPA 25.
- Sprinkler system water flow alarms, automatic fire detection system, valve tamper alarms, and fire pump alarms must remain monitored by a central station alarm company and they should be tested per NFPA 72.
- Make sure fire doors are closed, lock all fire protection control valves and conduct regular inspections.
- Inform the fire fighting department and provide access of the facility’s vacant situation, when necessary.
Verify Insurance or Step-up Commercial Vacant Building Security
When your commercial building is unoccupied, contact your insurance company to learn how your policy treats vacant property. Step-up vacant building security is the most important step to eliminate any fire risks. Security systems with intrusion and motion detection, glass-break monitors, and video surveillance are usually recommended, depending on your building’s facility.
Some insurance policies may even require CCTV with 24/7 monitoring services that interface with local law enforcement authorities and building owners, and in this case, fire security systems also have fire sensors that alert the fire department when needed. Therefore, check with your insurance provider to see what is necessary for your vacant commercial properties and buildings.
Important security & fire safety measures or fire safety precautions for vacant property management:
- Monitor the property physically (in addition to cameras) on daily basis.
- Add security devices and locks to all potential entry areas including, windows, trap doors, large vents, gates.
- Notify local authorities that your building is unoccupied
- Control who has access, disable keycards, record visitors.
- Manage lighting (interior/exterior) with timers.
- Isolate water, gas, and electric supplies and accessibility.
- Engage a nighttime security company.
Over to you
Now you would have known how to manage the inherent risks involved with unoccupied buildings, such as a retail store or restaurant. Make sure you do install the required fire detection equipment from the day you take ownership, thus you can keep your business fire-safe and operational.
We, at VariEx, are here to help you work through the challenges and liabilities. If there’s anything related to fire safety products and security services, Variex.in (one of the best fire fighting equipment suppliers and fire fighting company provides fire protection requirements for buildings) can do to help with life safety. Please feel free to contact us today.