Over 50,000 electrical fires occur annually, with nearly 500 deaths and 1,400 injuries, according to research from the Electrical Safety Foundation International. It goes without saying that electrical fires are common and dangerous, but they can also be preventable with the correct safety measures in place.
If you’re a building owner, a business owner, or another key decision maker in an industry where the potential for fire is high, then it’s important to understand whether or not you need a fire suppression system. The fact is, in many settings, fire suppression systems are necessary to quickly detect fire and automatically activate—before equipment or employees are put in harm’s way.
Electrical fires are one of the top causes of fires in industrial settings. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) found that fires caused by electrical distribution and lighting equipment accounted for 55% of direct property damage, as well as 9% of civilian injuries from 2011 to 2015. Electrical failure or malfunction caused $25 million dollars of direct property damage in the same time span.
When it comes to electrical cabinets and panels, fires are more a question of “when” rather than “if.” These fires cost businesses tens of millions of dollars a year in damages, yet fire protection for electrical cabinets is not always required by regulations. In fact, electrical cabinet fire protection is often skimped on or skipped altogether, in part due to the cost of fire suppression systems.
Whether they break out in a commercial setting, electrical fires pose unique challenges when it comes to extinguishing them. A common approach would be to cut off the power supply first and then simply use an ABC fire extinguisher—the “universal” type extinguisher you may see around your workplace or your home.
Fire suppression systems can be a necessary investment, both big and small. It’s natural that you want to get your money’s worth. When choosing a system or systems for your organization, it’s important to take into account the type of fire suppressant that is suitable for the application rather than choosing just based on the lifespan of the solution.
According to the Nonresidential Building Report by FEMA, between the years 2014 and 2016, an estimated 100,300 commercial fires were reported to US fire departments each year. For each year, these commercial fires caused an estimated 90 deaths, 1,350 injuries, and $2.4 billion in property losses. Eight percent of these commercial fires were caused by electrical malfunctions—that is roughly 8,000 electrical fires.
An electrical fire is one that starts due to an electrical failure or malfunction. While these incidents generate flames and heat like any other fire, it’s important to know you can’t use water to put out these flames. Using water while the power is still on can cause you to be electrocuted. And even when the power is off, water may damage the wiring, electronics, or machinery that was the source of the fire.
Among the types of electrical fires, electrical panel fires can be some of the most concerning and damaging. The National Fire Protection Association reports that fires involving electrical malfunctions or failures contribute to the most deaths and property damage each year, especially from November to February, when the weather becomes colder. Electrical panels and their associated circuit breakers become a fire hazard when they aren’t well-maintained, when they aren’t installed correctly, or when they just plain wear out. As the center of the building’s electrical system, the more an electrical panel is damaged by a fire, the greater the downtime, need for repair and risk to people who are on the premises.
When choosing your fire suppression system, one important thing to keep in mind is the aftermath of a discharge. While stopping the fire quickly is important, you also want to consider the impact of the fire suppression system you choose. After all, cleanup from a fire suppression event can be a long and arduous task if you choose a system that isn’t suited to your environment.
If you own a business, you know how devastating a fire can be. Not only do fires reduce profits by damaging property and equipment as well as increasing downtime, but they are a serious safety risk for you and your employees. And while not all fires are entirely preventable, there are many steps you can take to increase your chances of preventing fires and reacting quickly when one does occur.
Fire departments respond to more than one million fires each year in the United States alone. And while that number has been steadily decreasing since the 1970s, fires still present the potential for extremely hazardous situations whenever they occur. But while they all burn, not all fires are the same. In order to group fires—and the ways to extinguish them—fire professionals developed a system to classify fires.