Fires are inevitable in retail, but the repercussions aren’t

Fires are inevitable in retail, but the repercussions aren’t

Fires are an inevitable risk in any business, but the repercussions aren’t. Several household retail names, including the likes of supermarket giants Morrisons and Ocado, are recent examples of when a blaze has caused serious damage.

The consequences of which need to be a thing of the past.

Retailers are prioritising technology that can help improve their customer service – such as delivery trackers and instant messaging – but firefighting solutions should be considered as just as important. Investing in ways to improve customer satisfaction can count for very little if an emergency destroys products, equipment, or even worse, a building. In fact, four out of five businesses that suffer a major incident (including fires) collapse within 18 months. The consequences range from millions of pounds being wasted in lost stock and property damage, to job losses and falling share prices.

The need for businesses to invest in firefighting solutions is clear. In 2017/18 fire services attended more than 2,000 warehouse and commercial property fires in England and Wales. Research also highlights that, in the same time period, more than 1,700 retail units suffered significant fires too.

The human impact

Retailers must also consider the human element when drawing up their fire prevention and extinguishing policies. Should employees be on-premise when disaster strikes, then their lives are put at risk. This is exacerbated if the solutions at their disposal are either confusing to use or inefficient. Quite often, despite having received the necessary training, when faced with a high-pressure situation staff are left in confusion when remembering which fire extinguisher will tackle each class of fire. This wastes time, allowing the fire to spread and further putting lives at risk.

Even if a warehouse is automated, or staff do not happen to be on site when a fire ignites, people’s livelihoods are still on the line. Should the fire destroy equipment, products or property, this can cost millions to resolve and could lead to redundancies or cuts in overtime availability.

Tomorrow’s issues are already here

Faster, more efficient solutions have become essential in retail. Using warehouses as an example, solutions that can respond swiftly to an incident are especially important because the latest technology – such as automation – relies on lithium batteries that current firefighting techniques struggle to extinguish. If automation is inevitable, then so must be technological innovations in fire management. These incidents are often so devastating because they take too long to extinguish, giving them time to spread to a point where they become unmanageable. Not only does the equipment used to tackle fires need to be updated, and placed in stores and warehouses, but fire safety regulations also need to be revised.

A gap in the market

Fires in the home continue to be a common occurrence, yet the public remains largely unequipped to tackle fires before they become unmanageable. The potential damages a fire could cause presents an opportunity for retailers to take the lead when it comes to fighting domestic blazes, too.  Consumers often do not have an extinguisher in their home because they are not easily available in supermarkets or on the high street. Many of the retailers that do stock them do so in small quantities and quite often, they will only extinguish a single class of fire. This leaves consumers confused as to how and when they should use them, as well as which ones to buy.

Full protection with just a single solution

The introduction of a single solution that can extinguish all classes of fire would help retailers safeguard their own operations and help to protect consumers in their own homes. Should the unthinkable happen and a fire starts in an office or warehouse, the implementation of such a solution will safely extinguish a blaze, containing and eliminating the fire, without further damaging products or equipment. In workerless spaces, a sprinkler system will be able to extinguish the fire without further damaging the property or making it worse. If employees are on site, they will be able to use this single solution with more confidence than they would handling traditional extinguishers, as it will put out any class of fire on any surface, such as electrical equipment.

Additionally, if retailers take the positive step of stocking such a solution and make it accessible to consumers, then people will be prepared to tackle small fires in their homes should it be necessary. While steps can be taken to educate consumers on how to remain safe in a fire, this effort only becomes effective by empowering them with a solution that will tackle a fire before it becomes unmanageable and limit any potential damage.