Fire risk exists on a continual basis for the inventory industry. According to NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association, there’s little variation by month, day of the week and time of day when it comes to the average number of inventory fires.

Fire sources run the gamut, from arson to lightning to equipment failure, although some sources are more common. From 2009 through 2013, NFPA data showed:

  • 18% due to arson and negligence
  • 18% due to electrical systems
  • 8% due to heating systems
  • 7% due to another fire
  • 5% due to smoking
  • 4% due to cooking
  • 2% due to lightning

Outcomes showed that intentional fires due to arson and negligence had the highest cost at 32% of all property damage, with electrical and smoking-related fires following behind. Intentional and electrical fires also resulted in higher injuries.

In some cases, a single inventory fire can have an outsized impact on a business. Inventory fires are unique in that contamination by heat, smoke or water may ruin product that was not directly affected by the fire, leading to greater or complete losses.

Considerations for Businesses

It’s important to consider your own level of exposure to fire risk, as levels of risk can vary widely, depending on:

  • What inventory you hold
  • Where it is stored
  • How the facilities are managed

A beginning analysis could consider:

  • Size, area and layout of the area holding your inventory
  • Construction, materials and components of the inventory
  • Fire safety regulatory compliance, inspections, testing and operations
  • Emergency services ease of access, response time and other logistics

Steps for Reducing Inventory Fire Damage

Protecting your inventory from the risks of fire can be complex. Many safeguards work together to reduce the odds of a fire breaking out and causing serious damage.

Reducing Inventory Fire Damage — Wildfires

  • Create defensible space surrounding your inventory to buffer your inventory from the grass, trees, shrubs or any wildland area that surround it.
    • Zone 0— Extends 0-5 feet from inventory
      • Use gravel, pavers, concrete and other noncombustible mulch materials.
      • Remove all dead and dying weeds, grass, plants, shrubs, trees, branches and vegetative debris
    • Zone 1— Extends 30 feet from inventory
      • Remove all dead plants, grass and weeds.
      • Remove branches that hang over your inventory and trim any trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.
      • Create a separation between trees, shrubs and inventory
    • Zone 2— Extends 30-100 feet from inventory
      • Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches.
      • Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches higher than 4 inches.
    • Consider fire-resistant landscape design
      • Choose preferred plant species, maintain plant and soil health and remove all dead material regularly.
      • Consider using inorganic mulch like rock or brick chip in place of cedar mulch
      • Retaining walls can disrupt airflow that may help keep embers away from your inventory.
      • Replace bare or weedy patches near your inventory with ground cover, rock or fire-resistant mulches.

Reducing Inventory Fire Damage — Arson

  • Install security cameras around your inventory with signage that notes security cameras are in place.
  • Ensure your inventory is placed in well-lit areas, especially any entrances or exits.
  • Restrict entry points to your inventory where possible.
  • Store all flammable liquids such as gasoline in an approved storage location.
  • Keep leaves, overgrown brush and shrubbery and other combustibles away from inventory.

Reducing Inventory Fire Damage — Logistics

  • Take full analysis of your inventory’s fire risk at least annually or when inventory changes.
  • Work with local fire authorities to share information and facilitate emergency access.
  • Communicate with logistics and shipping contractors to be aware of evolving risks.
  • Ensure your business and inventory data is backed up regularly with copies stored offsite.
  • Create a business continuity plan you can quickly put into action in case of a fire.
  • Partner with an experienced insurer to protect your inventory from loss in the event of fire.

Fire prevention and safety in the inventory industry is a complex issue. Seek out the advice of experts, such as your insurance representative, who can help ensure you have the coverage you need to be protected.

For more information about reducing your odds of fire damage and protecting your inventory, contact Lockton Affinity.