I’ve recently written a few guest posts for business owners about fire safety. They pertain to being proactive with regard to fire inspections and avoiding fires. But, I’m not sure if writing about fire safety is as helpful as showing you about fire safety.

It’s easy to look at a checklist and mentally say, “Our business is fine. It meets the requirements.” But it is more practical and revealing to walk through your business and inspect each aspect. So, here is what fire safety should or should not look like in your business. Please consider that the pictures from this business are larger than your average small business, but the laws are the same.

Signage – What does it look like? Your business should have all emergency exits clearly marked with signs and/or lighted exit signed with back up batteries. This allows employees and customers to safely exit in case of emergency. We have the customer area emergency exit signed, and the extinguisher locations clearly marked.

These are three examples of emergency exit signage. The bottom is a vinyl, adhesive sign. The middle is a sign with back up batteries that glows red in the dark. The third has the addition of emergency lighting to assist people in safely exiting the building.

A fire equipment maintenance is an active fire protection tool that is frequently used in emergency situations to put out or control small fires.

Not only will emergency exiting signage help in the case of a fire, it will also assist you in passing your fire marshal inspection and your business insurance inspection. When in doubt, call the AJH or authority having jurisdiction in your area. This is most likely the local fire department.

If you have a smaller business and the fire extinguisher is clearly visible from all points in the business, you may not need a sign to identify its location. Regarding placement, “fire extinguishers shall be conspicuously located where they are readily accessible and immediately available in the event of a fire.” However, in larger rooms or more visually obstructed areas, signs should be located in “close proximity” and “visible from the normal path of travel” to the extinguisher,” (NFPA10. 6.1.3).

Portable Fire Extinguishers – Where do they go?

An often overlooked aspect of fire safety is the location of fire extinguishers. This happens for a variety of reasons. Some owners install their own extinguishers and go to a fire extinguisher equipment company. Sometimes, people move or tamper with fire extinguishers so that they “fit” a certain space. Occasionally, people add onto their building and need to relocate their extinguishers.

Businesses are required to have a 2A fire extinguisher at least every 75 feet of walking distance minus obstructions. Certain businesses with heavy hazards require higher rated extinguishers and/or more extinguishers. So, go stand near your fire extinguisher(s). Can you easily reach them from anywhere in your business? Are they easy to find? Alternately, go to the further area in your business with a tape measure – now try walking to the closest extinguisher.

In addition to the location, the height of fire extinguishers is also regulated. This seems a bit picky, but it is for ease of usage and safety. Extinguishers weighing under forty pounds can be mounted no higher than five feet. Fire extinguishers weighing more than forty pounds can be mounted no higher than 3.5 feet above the ground. Conversely, most fire extinguisher cylinders (the metal container) will corrode if exposed to water. So, all portable fire extinguishers must be mounted at least 4 inches above the ground. 

This extinguisher is located slightly below a countertop in a business lobby. It has the proper signage above. It is at least four inches above the ground. NFPA 10 regulations require the proper mounting bracket for each extinguisher and that the instruction information be facing outward.

Some fire extinguishers may need to be located inside of a fire cabinet. Most businesses will not need these types of cabinets. If your fire extinguishers are required to be outside, especially in Florida, it’s a good idea to protect them from pests and the elements. The cabinets also protect the extinguishers from tampering or misuse by people. One last element for most businesses is being able to tell if their extinguisher is in good working order or if it needs service.

Fire Extinguisher Labeling – How do I read it?

There are so many labels! It took me forever to determine which parts of the fire extinguisher label would actually be useful. The label below is located on all Universally Listed portable fire extinguishers. It is mandated by law.

The basic information you can glean from these labels is:  The size. 

This is a five-pound fire extinguisher. It will actually feel heavier, because there are five pounds of extinguishing agent inside.

The extinguishing agent.

This is a carbon dioxide extinguisher. It is a clean agent, meaning it will not leave a residue or water on the ground after usage.

The types of fires the extinguisher is designed to extinguish.

This extinguisher will put out a class B or C fire. This extinguisher will put out flammable liquid fires and energized electrical fires.