Recovering From Facility Fire

Randy Tipton Comments
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Metal buildings and concrete pads are key ingredients of many self-storage facilities. Some owners believe their facility could not, and will not, sustain a loss from fire because metal doesn’t burn and the concrete pad can’t be damaged. While we wish this were true, it’s not.

The intense heat produced by a fire can cause metal to distort and concrete to crack, resulting in permanent structural damage. Uncommon as it may be, it’s not unheard of for both the building and pad to be demolished and replaced as a result of fire damage. Fire is one of the most devastating losses a storage owner will ever experience. The after effects of a fire are even more tragic.

The Hazards

Think about the nature of our business: We allow tenants to empty contents from their homes, garages and businesses and store them at our properties. We protect our facility with a well-written lease clearly stating the renter is not allowed to store hazardous contents in the unit.

The customer agrees to the terms of the lease, signs it (making it a legally binding contract), and heads off to fill your property with flammables. Often, tenants do this unintentionally.

Gasoline, paint and home-cleaning products are all considered hazardous materials that people may not recognize as such. Hence, even the best tenant may be putting your property at risk. Add to that the fire load being placed within the same unit—items such as mattresses, boxes filled with old papers, photo albums, etc.—and you’ve got a disaster just waiting to ignite.

As tenants move items in and out, they sometimes break another rule at your facilities: They smoke. There have been countless fire claims that have originated from inside a closed unit, much to the surprise of the tenant and facility owner.

Fire!

Embers igniting the contents of a single unit could cause considerable damage to your entire business. Most self-storage fires go undetected for awhile until a tenant or facility manager sees smoke or flames billowing from within a structure.

By the time the fire trucks arrive, the unit is in full blaze. Firefighters will first assure people’s safety and then try to contain and extinguish the blaze and smoke. Hoses and axes are brought in. You can expect that all of the units in the building will be accessed as the crews break through the doors with their axes to ensure no fire spots are sputtering in other units. Huge amounts of water and flame retardant will be spewed all over the engaged building and neighboring structures to put the fire down.

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