When it comes to fire incidents, it is imperative to get the machine shop back up and running in a timely matter. Downtime presents a significant loss in revenue, even before accounting for any repair or replacement costs. Your response to a fire is critical. We have outlined three key guidelines to follow if a fire occurs.
Account for all employees
First, make sure all your employees are safe. You should have an evacuation plan in place that outlines procedures for stopping work, evacuation routes, and designated assembly areas.
Don’t reenter the building until a professional has determined that it is safe. Fire can compromise the integrity of the building, and there could be damage from fire, smoke, and water. If you do enter the building after receiving the all-clear, make sure you are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment. Be careful not to stir up ash, as it can contain asbestos, toxins, and heavy metals. The area needs to be vented, as fires can create noxious fumes and dangerous byproducts.
There could also be small, deep-seated fires still burning or smoldering. The utilities, especially the gas and electrical lines, should be carefully checked to ensure they are safe. Electrical lines can be dangerous if the building’s sprinklers went off.
Review your insurance policy and disaster assistance resources. Mold can begin to grow in damp areas within 24 hours. Soot and ash are acidic and can irreversibly damage property. Residue from Class B fires, such as those from oil-based coolants, can be sticky and extremely difficult to clean. Sprinklers often cause water damage.
Once you’ve confirmed that the building is structurally stable, create a plan for site work. Consider what professionals you will need to bring in, what supplies you’ll need, and where the disposal and clean-up sites should be. As you assess the damage, determine what to repair and what to replace.
While your site work plan will be dependent on the extent of the damage, you may be able to plan some things in advance. For example, you can make a list of reputable contractors and their contact information readily available in case of emergency.
Modern Machine Shop recommends proactively creating a disaster recovery plan which includes appraising your equipment, reviewing your insurance plan, and backing up your data. In case of a disaster, you can return to normal operations as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Increase your fire-readiness
Make sure you periodically conduct a thorough risk assessment of the fire hazards in your shop to find and fix any possible root causes of fire. Precision machining, running lights out, and using oil-based coolants may increase your fire risks. Assess and remedy fire hazards in your shop, schedule regular maintenance and testing of equipment, and have fire extinguishing equipment and sprinklers readily accessible. Revisit your safety and evacuation protocols to ensure everything is up to date and all personnel are trained to respond safely and effectively to future fire events.
If the fire originated in a machine, you may consider installing fire suppression systems. These systems quickly suppress fires at the source, without any damage to the machine. Machines with automatic fire suppression systems can be up and running in as little as 45 minutes after a fire.