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Construction a critical time for fire protection

By Cincinnati Life

Buildings are vulnerable to fire during construction phase.

Building or remodeling a home or business is an exciting time, filled with many decisions. One consideration that’s easy to overlook is adequate fire protection.

During construction or renovation, your home or business is most susceptible to fire. In a recently published report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), during the years 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 8,440 fires in structures under construction, undergoing major renovation or being demolished. These fires resulted in $310 million in property damage each year.

Luckily, some simple and cost-effective solutions can significantly reduce the threat fire poses to your home or business:

  • Theft detection: Once the building is fully enclosed with roof, doors and windows, install and activate a temporary fire and burglar alarm system that reports to a central station. Because smoke detectors are susceptible to false activation from construction dust, heat sensors are better suited for temporary fire detection. If permanent power is not yet available, a temporary power source can be used. Cellular communication to the alarm monitoring station should suffice if an active phone line is not yet available. 
  • Site security: Because of the increased threat of arson and vandalism while your property is unoccupied, install security fencing and keep it locked on weekends and non-working hours. Motion-activated lighting, video surveillance systems and even security guards are additional options that can significantly reduce the risk of unwanted visitors or trespass.
  • Fire extinguishers: Keep fire extinguishers in highly visible locations throughout the jobsite. Multi-purpose extinguishers (Type ABC) of at least 10 pounds are recommended.
  • No smoking: Smoking should be prohibited, with no-smoking signs posted in visible locations throughout the construction site.
  • Flammable liquids: Store flammable materials such as paints, varnishes and solvents in an approved flammable storage cabinet. In addition, excess combustible building materials such as lumber should be stored outside the building a safe distance from the project.
  • Housekeeping: Because many commonly used construction materials are highly combustible, the jobsite should be broom-swept and cleaned daily and thoroughly cleaned at the end of each work week. Remove all trash from the site daily or weekly.
  • Electrical: According to the NFPA report, “electrical distribution and lighting equipment was involved in 20 percent of the fires in structures undergoing major renovation, including 14 percent involving wiring and related equipment.” This high frequency warrants a closer look at the electrical systems, both of the property and those temporary systems installed by contractors.

Remember to discuss these loss-prevention measures with your contractors, including subcontractors, before construction begins. These established protocols can help keep your home or business safe during this critically important time. 


(This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. The Cincinnati Insurance Company offers Builders Risk insurance to protect your home or business during the construction process; not available in all states or for all risks; for more information about coverages or loss control measures, please contact your local, independent agent.)

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