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Fire Risk in Retail Units

Published: 05/04/2017

Fire Risk in Retail Units

Tenanted retail units, commonly found in shopping centres and department stores, pose a number of unique risk management challenges.

Zurich has undertaken many risk management surveys at these type of premises and been able to identify a number of common issues that they regularly encounter and have the potential to either start or sustain fires.

Based on these observations, Zurich's expert Risk Engineers have issued guidance points that can help anyone who works in real estate to better manage the risk of fire at their premises.

Sprinkler Head Clearance

Observation: sprinklers rendered ineffective due to storage obstructing sprinkler heads.

Control: limit storage heights in accordance with sprinkler system capabilities. Maintain at least 0.5 meters of clear space beneath sprinkler deflectors.

Sprinkler Pipework

Observation: damaged pipework and water leakage due to hanging items.

Control: strictly prohibit hanging items from sprinkler pipework.

Suspended Ceiling Tiles

Observation: missing tiles causing smoke and/or heat to be drawn up into the void, delaying activation of alarm and sprinkler heads.

Control: replace missing tiles, particularly where fire detection or suppression is placed on the underside of a suspended ceiling.

Fire Escape Routes

Observation: fire spread aided by combustibles stored along fire escape routes and staircases.

Control: keep all such areas free of combustibles and other obstructions.

Internal Fire Doors

Observation: fire doors held open with hooks, wedges, fire extinguishers and other obstructions removing an essential protection against fire spread. Items in doorways also present a trip hazard and risk potential liability claims.

Control: keep fire doors closed at all times. Only hold open using special magnet or acoustic devises that release on activation of the fire alarm system.

Plant Room, Risers and Electrical Cupboards

Observation: fire hazard by strong combustibles near electrical systems.

Control: keep areas solely for their intended use. Never use for storage. Keep locked at all times.

Electrical Switchgear Apparatus and Distribution Boards

Observation: impact damage to electrical apparatus. Fire hazard by storing combustibles near electrical systems.

Control: maintain at least 0.5 meters of clear space around electrical apparatus. Use guide rails, warning notices and/or floor markings to establish this clear area.

Trailing Electrical Leads

Observation: mechanical damage to trailing electrical leads, resulting in short circuits, overload, overheating and ignition. Trailing leads also risk trips and slips, and resulting liability claims against the property owners and/or its occupants.

Control: avoid any trailing leads unless essential. Regularly inspect any essential trailing leads for damage. 

Multi-point Electrical Adapters

Observation: overloading and ignition from the use of multipoint adapters.

Control: remove any multipoint adapter and have a competent electrician install additional electrical sockets.

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