NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Fires are one of those types of disasters that sneak up on you without any kind of warning. Without any sort of preparation, even minor ones can put small companies, those already teetering on the edge, out of business for good.|
To help prevent fires -- and later recover from them if they occur -- it is important that all businesses have a comprehensive fire prevention and recovery program.
One Web site that offers help to small manufacturers and construction businesses, EqualFooting.com, compiled these fire prevention tips for small-business owners:
° Keep fire extinguishers placed at key locations within the building.
° Install smoke alarms on every floor of your business.
° Test the batteries in your smoke alarms regularly and install new ones every year.
° Have heating units checked annually by a qualified service person.
° Never store propane tanks in any part of your business.
° Keep all exits to your business clear.
° Keep flammable liquids stored properly.
° Prepare a fire escape plan with your employees and practice two escape routes from every office.
° Have a prearranged meeting place outside the building and call the fire department from a nearby spot.
° Never re-enter a burning building.
Get the right insurance just in case
The Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group, has noted that most small businesses fail to take advantage of business interruption insurance that can make up for lost income when a company, following a fire or other disaster, can't serve its customers.
According to the institute, only a third to 40 percent of companies with fewer than 10 employees have such coverage. For those with 10 to 20 employees, the rate rises to 50 percent, and to 60 percent beyond that.
Realize, too, that in the event of a major fire, a lot of records important to the business will be lost. It is recommended that business owners keep copies of valuable documents in a second, secure location. Also, they should make sure they routinely copy important computer information on portable disks and store them, too, in a safe place.
The Insurance Information Institute provides these additional tips for weathering a fire:
° Train employees in fire safety -- particularly those responsible for storage areas, housekeeping, maintenance and operations where open flames or flammable substances are used.
° Modernize the electrical system, since faulty wiring causes a large percentage of nonresidential fires.
° Situate your business in a fire-resistant building -- a structure made of non-combustible materials with firewalls that create barriers to the spread of fires -- and in a building with a fire alarm system connected to the local fire department.
° Take an inventory of all the damage to your business. Taking an inventory of your losses helps the insurance adjuster expedite the claim.