Fires Don’t Always Start with a Lit Match

Fires that hit equipment dealers come in all sizes. They can occur anytime, anywhere, and from a variety of causes. They don’t discriminate. In the past, we have discussed spontaneous combustion, heating systems, electrical systems, smoking, poor housekeeping, the storage of flammables, and mechanical equipment failure as potential fire risks. These continue to be the most frequent causes across all industries, and are often the result of missed opportunities to recognize and remove the hazard. But, sometimes, hazards can be easy to miss:

  • ​A company employee was doing some cleanup with a mop and cleaning chemicals. Those two things in combination spontaneously combusted.

The point is, business owners need to be ready for almost anything. There’s no doubt that fires are devastating and have implications far beyond property damage. A thousand thoughts flood a dealership owner’s mind when watching his or her company being reduced to rubble: Was anyone hurt or killed? What will happen tomorrow; next week; next year? How will I take care of my employees? Will they even stay?

Fires create chaos 
Businesses are vital to a community’s well-being and survival. A fire at a business leaves community members and officials wondering if the company will survive.

Fires create uncertainty
Employees are a business’s most valuable asset, but a fire can leave them with a lot of questions: Do I still have a job or do I need to move on? Will I get a paycheck—even for the short-term? What can I do to help? If the company shuts down, then what?

Fires create doubt
Customers rely on businesses to be operational to fulfill their needs. When customers see a business go up in flames, they can’t help but wonder how it will affect them. Will their needs be met? Today’s just-in-time business transactions may require many customers to go elsewhere to get the products and services previously provided them by the damaged supplier. Will that be short- or long-term?

Fire prevention is an important enough topic to take the proper time and effort to put into action. The annual National Fire Prevention Week is a valuable reminder that preventing workplace fires is something every business can do to help ensure they’ll be around tomorrow.

But fire prevention is not just a “one and done” annual risk management activity. To be effective, it needs to be done daily. Investigations reveal that most fires can be prevented if businesses consistently pay attention to a few, very specific hazards. In the past, Federated has provided generic fire risk evaluation checklists to use during facility inspections. Although most fire risks are universal for the industries we serve, we also understand that an industry- and company-specific checklist will allow each dealership to concentrate on the risks unique to its operations.

Checklists are intended to help employees, supervisors, or managers recognize and fix fire hazards. However, checklists can do only so much. Employee training and outfitting your premises with proper fire prevention safeguards, procedures, and equipment will add to your ability to prevent a fire from taking over control of your company.


Laramie Sandquist, CPCU, ARM
Federated Mutual Insurance Company

This article is for general information and risk prevention only. It does not cover or identify all risk exposures, nor should it be considered legal or other expert advice. The recommendations presented may help reduce, but are not guaranteed to eliminate, any or all risk of loss. Qualified counsel should be sought with questions specific to your circumstances.