The leading causes of office fires

FM newsroom – facility management. Fire prevention can easily be an overlooked aspect of maintenance until something bad happens. Sometimes as simple as a faulty smoke alarm or broken fire extinguisher can cause serious damage to facilities. Even only by identifying common fire hazards, managers can reduce the threat of blazes in facilities.

In the United States according to the report by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) cooking is among the leading cause of office and store fires. It is often closely followed by intentionally started fires and fires caused by electrical malfunction. Other unintentional acts and fires caused by appliances are also on the list, according to FacilitiesNet.

There is critical need for fire prevention measures starting with implementing simple yet effective precautions like identifying potential hazards, creating a fire evacuation plan, and maintaining good inspection records and proper fire prevention systems.

The most common fire hazards 

Electrical, heating, storage and smoking areas are the most common fire hazards in a building.

Electrical fires, a top cause of fires, are often caused by worn-out electrical equipment, improper use of equipment and accidental or operator error. The good news is they are easy to prevent with proper design, installation and maintenance. Facility managers are recommended to regularly inspect and ensure that equipment such as appliances and computers are free from damage and avoid overloading power strips and outlets to prevent electrical issues.  

Heating appliances and associated equipment also are common sources of fire. Proper installation, use and maintenance of heating systems is the best prevention. In cooking or heating areas it is also vital to keep combustible materials at a safe distance to minimize the risk of fire.

Improper handling or storage of trash and combustibles can also quickly become fire hazards. Maintaining a building site and keeping it clean is the easiest way to prevent these types of fires from starting. Materials should never block areas of potential hazard such as gas meters or electrical disconnects.  

Although smoking is banned in most facilities, it is still a serious fire issue. Facility managers must ensure “no smoking” policies in hazardous areas and provide proper smoking areas if necessary. Facilities should also offer a convenient and safe way to collect and dispose of residue from smoking.  

Professional fire prevention tips 

Modern building design and fire codes protect most institutional and commercial facilities, but there are still steps maintenance managers can take.

Recommended basic preventative actions: 

  • Check for damaged or overloaded electrical outlets, cords and cables.
  • Keep anything that can burn away from electrical equipment.
  • Never leave portable heating devices unattended.
  • Keep workspace and equipment clean, dry and well-ventilated.
  • Plan and practice multiple escape routes in case one is blocked.
  • Ensure windows can be opened and screens can be removed.
  • Remove any obstacles from exits.  
  • Ensure all fire protection features are properly designed, installed and maintained.
  • Post clean fire escape plans on every level of a building.  
  • Teach employees about exit locations, escape routes and fire protection equipment.  
  • Check the condition of fire ladders and escapes.
  • Conduct regular emergency drills.


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