commercial fire fire at a commercial building

You’re afraid of fire happening on your business premises, and you’re right to be worried. A business fire not only can disrupt your operations but it can also result in damages to business-critical equipment, cause injuries, and even lead to loss of lives. 

In the U.S., 16,500 office and stores caught fire in 2020, which led to $932 million worth of direct property damage, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System. These can include visible damages, such as to walls, floors, ceilings, fixtures, and furniture. You could also be dealing with hidden damages, such as to your electrical system, HVAC system, loss of structural integrity, and other damages caused by smoke and soot. Depending on the severity of the damages, you could be looking at days, week, or months of repair and recovery. 

In the worst-case scenario, your business could shut down. This isn’t a far-fetched idea, as one in four or 25% of business affected by a fire don’t reopen after the incident, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. If this happens, your employees would also lose their jobs and the community might miss a crucial service filled by your business. 

So, yeah, it’s reasonable and practical to think about the possibility of a fire destroying your business temporarily or for the long-term. You couldn’t be blamed if you’re planning for the worst. If you’re business suffers from a fire, here are what could possibly happen. 

What happens when a business catches fire?

There are varying reasons why a business catches fire. Common causes include cooking-related equipment and electrical or lighting. According to the United States Fire Protection, Inc., the former is the no. 1 reason for igniting fires in the construction, healthcare, and food and drink industries, while the latter is a major cause of business blazes in the manufacturing, oil and gas, and retail sectors. 

But, no matter the cause of the fire, here are what happens afterward. In the unfortunate event that your business catches a blaze, you’ll need to deal with the following: 

  • Address personal, financial, and economic damages.

If the fire occurred during business hours, the chances are high that some of your employees or clients might get injured or even die because of the unfortunate event. This is perhaps the biggest risk you’ll need to face when such an incident happens to your business.

If the blaze occurred during non-operating hours, then you might be more fortunate and suffer only losses in property, equipment, inventory, or other business asset. Both can have adverse effects on your business finances, in addition to distress and possible grief. 

  • Handle business down time.

A fire can not only cause adverse shifts in your sales and profit but also lead to loss of business and a tarnished reputation. You’ll be dealing with a pause in your operations, how long depends on how much damage the fire has caused and how soon you can fix them.

During this time, you’ll need to address customer or client inquiries about their purchases. You’ll need to inform them of potential delays or setbacks in production and delivery. Reaching out to clients and giving them a satisfactory response is essential as it could give them a reason to stay or move on to another business. 

  • File for insurance claims.

In the midst of all the chaos, you’ll also need to file your insurance claims. Business loss and damages caused by a fire are most likely covered by a commercial property insurance. Arson is an exception but there could be others, so make sure to read the fine print of your policy. Hiring a public adjuster is the best step to begin with. They manage the claim from start to finish and protect your interests as they prepare your claim and negotiate with the insurance company.

If you have no fire insurance (not recommended) or if you’ve voided it for one reason or another, you’ll have to pay for the repairs and restoration yourself. This can eat up a big chunk of your already diminished or diminishing resources.

  • Start restoring what the fire has destroyed or damaged. 

Eventually, you have to get around to cleaning up after the fire. You’ll have to toss out any totally damaged, irreparable, or otherwise unusable items. Then you’ll have to get their replacement and restore any items that can still be of use. For instance, damaged appliances or equipment necessary for your business to smoothly resume operations, of course, needs to be replaced. 

There’s also the matter of cleaning up soot and smoke damage. You’ll need to treat areas with soot, especially soot on any metal and electrical wiring, to avoid further damages to them. Then, you need to check for possible water damage caused by sprinklers or the firefighters. If left unchecked, this could lead to mold. 

Another item on your to-do list should be to look for possible chemical damage. Depending on your business, you could be dealing with toxic odors or degraded surfaces. In these cases, it’s best to call a company that specializes in removing or cleaning up chemical damages caused by fire to ensure everything’s taken care of properly. 

Last but not least, check your wirings for water, soot, or smoke damage. Again, call for a professional to do this for you. 

How a Fire Protection Plan Can Help

As you can see, there are many things you’ll need to do after a business fire. You’ll have to address tons of stuff and all of them equally important. While dealing with such a difficult and potentially big loss can be challenging, it can be done but not without any help. One tool that can aid you during this time is a fire protection plan. 

A fire protection plan, or fire prevention plan, is a system that details your business’ plans if a fire should occur. It should include major fire hazards and procedures on maintaining and controlling the same. You could also have a communications plan, which lays out how you’ll keep in touch with employees, customers, and suppliers, as well as an information technology plan to the mix.

What happens after a business fire?

In essence, having a fire protection plan in place can increase the chances of your business surviving after a blaze. It will ensure a smooth transition in operations and help your business recover more speedily.

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