As an owner of a commercial space, you’re required to comply with many codes such as the fire code. Chances are, you’ve unknowingly violated the fire code before, as many commercial property owners are unaware it even exists. To help you out, we’ve identified some of the most common fire code violations. That way, you can proactively amend the faults in your South Florida commercial property.
#1 Faulty Smoke Alarms and Detectors
One of the most common reasons for violating the fire code involves faulty detectors. These devices tend to be overlooked because they’re tucked away. In most cases, commercial property owners don’t notice that their detector’s batteries are low until it starts to chirp. Unfortunately, when this occurs, many owners simply switch it off to stop it from chirping. They say they’ll get brand-new batteries but end up forgetting to do so.
Smoke detectors are designed to alert you and your tenants in case of a fire. In that way, you can get out of the building before the fire can worsen. If they aren’t maintained, you won’t be able to prevent property damage, and you and your and your tenant’s lives will be in danger.
With that said, remember to swap out the alarm’s batteries every year, and to update all alarms every ten years even if they’re still functional. It would also be wise to partner with a commercial property maintenance company if you’re forgetful or if you simply don’t want to worry about battery replacements.
Non-existent fire alarms are also a common violation. What’s worse than faulty smoke alarms? No smoke alarms. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that smoke alarms should be placed on all floors and stairways of commercial properties. Furthermore, they shouldn’t be blocked in any way.
#2 Expired Fire Extinguishers
In commercial real estate, you must have fire extinguishers that are fully charged and functioning. It’s worth mentioning that the type of fire extinguisher you need will be based on what the building is used for and the square footage of the structure. You should also consider what kind of fire is most likely to occur in your commercial building (e.g. Class A, B, and C fires). For example, if you own a restaurant, you would need a Class K fire extinguisher to put out cooking fires and prevent fires from reigniting.
Furthermore, fire extinguishers should be positioned properly (around 3 to 5 feet from the floor), mounted with the right bracket, and placed in the usual paths of travel. A certified fire protection firm should test and maintain them at least once per year, as failure to have them inspected can lead to more violations. If you aren’t familiar with fire protection firms in your area, consult your commercial maintenance company.
#3 Blocked Exits
Fire exits are there for a reason. They provide people with an alternative route to safety. But what if the fire exit is blocked? Your tenants and their clients will have to put themselves in harm’s way to use the usual path. But what if the door is also blocked by deliveries that were dropped off earlier in the day? People will have no way out and you will be liable for whatever happens to them.
It doesn’t matter if you’re simply dropping stuff off or momentarily storing items near the door. All exits, hallways, stairs, etc. should be clear in case you need to evacuate. No excuses. Your commercial property’s occupants must be able to escape with ease – they shouldn’t have to use force, tools, keys, etc. to leave.
And remember, the fire exit door should be shut at all times. It’s meant to stop the fire from spreading to areas meant to take people to safety. Inform your tenants about this when you or your property management firm conducts a safety seminar. Remind them not to wedge the door open (to let the air in) and to only use the fire exit during a fire.
#4 Lack of Fire Safety Signage
According to the International Fire Code (IFC), commercial properties such as shopping centers, retail stores, and restaurants must have visible exit signages. In an emergency, these exit signs guide individuals to the closest exit. Exit signs must be well-illuminated so that people can easily spot them and make their way to safety.
Unfortunately, many commercial property owners fail to maintain these exit signs – one of the most common instances is when the word “EXIT” is missing one or two letters. This can result in disaster, as your tenants and their clients may not be able to find the exit in case of a fire.
To avoid liability, be sure to replace the batteries every year. To pass the inspection, make sure the exit sign meets the requirements such as:
- It must be visible halfway between two exits.
- There should be additional exit signs in case the exit sign is obstructed (e.g. in office buildings, cubicle walls might be in the way).
- It should be legible. There should be a contrast between the letters and the background color.
#5 Improper Use of Fire Pump Rooms
The fire pump room may seem like the perfect “catch-all” for miscellaneous items such as mops, supplies, etc., but be warned – if you use it for other purposes, you’ll probably be fined. The fire pump room should only contain equipment that personnel can use to stop a fire. It should be accessible so firefighters can access the room immediately, as delay may result in further harm.
#6 Extended Use of Extension Cords
Extension cords are supposed to be used temporarily, but if you’ve been using them for months, you’re in violation of the fire code. The continuous use of extension cords is a fire and safety risk, as many fires in commercial spaces are caused by extension cords that overheat. Instead of relying on extension cords, it would be best to hire an electrician to add outlets. If you’ve partnered with a South Florida property management company, they can connect you to their network of vetted vendors, and help you secure cheaper rates for electrical services.
Hire a Property Maintenance Company to Ensure Fire Code Compliance
At Luxury Property Care, we will conduct routine inspections of your commercial property to ensure its year-round compliance. Our team is well-versed in the fire code, as well as other applicable laws. With us by your side, you can avoid getting into legal trouble for code violations. Contact (561) 944 – 2992 or complete our contact form to learn more about our commercial property maintenance services.