Fire protection is comprised of three distinct categories: building design, fire detection, and fire suppression. Fire suppression systems exist as the last line of defense if a fire occurs. They are the key players in containing and extinguishing fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has codes that dictate the operation and maintenance of virtually all of these systems. To most effectively address fire protection, it is important to fully evaluate your facility and have a basic knowledge of fire suppression systems in order to choose the best suited devices for your business’ hazardous zones. It is equally important to ensure that employees are aware of these zones and have knowledge of these systems in order to protect themselves against possible fire risks.
Evaluating Your Property
A thorough evaluation of your property and possible hazards will help clarify which products and equipment require special protection. The potential extent of damage caused by irritants such as heat, smoke, and other products of combustion from a fire should be considered.
Evaluating your Suppression Systems
Fire suppression relies on fire detection first, followed by the application of a sufficient extinguishing agent. This process can either be manual or automatic, with automatic mechanisms being more reliable. Some examples of automatic fire suppression systems include dry chemical systems, sprinkler systems, and standpipe systems. Suppression systems are tricky not only to choose, but to operate and maintain. Below are some questions to ask when addressing currently established systems:
- Are warning signs posted both inside and at the entrance of areas protected by automatic fire suppression systems that utilize hazardous chemical agents?
- Is at least one manual station provided to activate each automatic fire suppression system?
- Are pressure and weight of refillable containers and weight of non-refillable containers checked at least twice annually?
- Are there instructions for which manually operated devices provide protection for different hazards?
When evaluating fire protection, one must also consider the five different classes of fire, which all require different extinguishing systems and carry different types of risk. These classes are categorized based on the type of substance that fuels the fire. In the cannabis industry, the most relevant classes are Class A (ordinary combustibles), Class B (flammable gases or liquids), and Class K (cooking oils or fats).
Fire is a major threat to cannabis businesses due to both the possible losses and the increased risk involved in the work environment. Establishing and maintaining adequate fire suppression systems, along with having prepared and alert employees, is fundamental to having suitable fire protection in your facility.