Electrical fires in commercial buildings can be the result of user error or device malfunction. The good news is that no matter if it’s the result of user error or a malfunction in the electrical equipment, electrical fires can almost always be avoided.

Educating personnel on the dangers of electrical fires and training staff on the proper use of electrical equipment and how to extinguish electrical fires will help to lessen your chance of experiencing an electrical fire.

Electrical fires in commercial buildings

Electrical fires rank among the top five causes of commercial building fires involving a range of industries from health clinics and hospitals to manufacturing plants and warehouses. The cause of electrical fires varies based on the industry, but there are some top causes of electrical fires that should be addressed.

  • Overloaded outlets
    • Excess heat from overload can wear on the internal wiring system
  • Misuse of extension cords
    • Extension cords can overheat if used long-term
  • Improper use of electrical appliances
    • Keeping space heater too close to flammable materials or using a lightbulb with wattage too high for the fixture
  • Frayed/damaged electrical equipment
    • Frayed cords expose electrical wires that spark on contact with each other/ anything that can ground the electrical current
  • Faulty or outdated wiring
    • An outdated breaker box will not trip when circuit overloads
  • Improper/lack of maintenance
    • Certain electrical devices like medical equipment requires a certified electrician to conduct annual testing

Safely extinguish an electrical fire

Electrical fires are a class C fire. You will need an extinguisher appropriate for this type of fire to safely extinguish the flames. Most portable fire extinguishers are multi-purpose and labeled ABC, but it is imperative to verify this before using it on an electrical fire.

The only way an electrical fire should not be extinguished is with water. The reason that you should always use a portable ABC fire extinguisher instead of water is due to the threat of electrocution or shock. Water may also cause the fire to spread to other electrical appliances in the area since water is a conductor of electricity.

Most electrical fires can be extinguished with portable extinguishers. An exception would be if the fire is growing in size or is simply unsafe to extinguish. In this case it’s important to immediately evacuate and call 911. Your building should have an automatic fire sprinkler system that will activate to handle larger fires.

If your building holds mission critical data (i.e. server rooms), a clean agent system will safely and quickly extinguish fire with no water damage.

Electrical fire safety tips

As stated, most electrical fires are completely avoidable and likely the result of user error. No matter the industry, almost everyone encounters an electrical device at some point throughout their day. Education on electrical safety is critical.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety suggests establishing a written electrical safety program that includes training guidelines for all electrical equipment. A successful employee safety programs should address:

  • How to identify electrical hazards
  • What is a safe distance from exposed electrical conductors
  • Information about personal protective equipment for electrical safety
  • How to understand proper work practices in wet/damp locations with electricity
  • Proper lockout/tag-out procedures for electrical equipment/systems
  • Safety requirements for electrical installations
  • How OSHA rules apply to the job and workplace

How fire protection professionals can help

Choosing a local fire protection to install and inspect your building’s portable fire extinguishers, fire alarm system, and automatic sprinkler system will lessen the chances that an electrical fire will cause extensive damage to your facility.

Fire Systems, Inc. is a full-service fire protection company offering fire extinguisher inspection services. We can perform any service or maintenance you might need. We also offer a complete employee Fire Extinguisher Training Program that can be performed on-site at your location using a digital simulator.

Find out more about our extinguisher training program. Schedule an inspection today or bundle your extinguishers with a full-service inspection of all of your fire protection systems. Call us at 770-333-7979 or visit our website.