How to Prevent a Catastrophic Fire in Your Greenhouse Facility
According to NFPA, there was $11.5 billion in property damage from fires in the United States in 2013. In a greenhouse environment, quickly spreading fires will easily destroy crops, damage facilities, and disrupt business operations that results in lost income. These blazing flames are a result of high temperature, combustible materials, and oxygen – all elements commonly found within a greenhouse.
Flammable materials exposed to high temperature sources plant the seed for a fire disaster. Add oxygen to the mix and your whole greenhouse operations could get destroyed. Sources of these high temperatures include poor electrical wiring, overloaded circuits, soldering or welding work, heating systems and other equipment, and discarded cigarettes. When a flame or high heat comes into contact with plastic, greenhouse covers, shade cloths, chemicals, and other flammable items, a fire can break out. Increasing the flow of oxygen, such as through a fan, only intensifies and spreads the flames.
To prevent these elements from coming into contact with one another and starting a fire, it’s important to minimize and control fire hazards within your facility. Below are some helpful tips to protect your greenhouse, crops, and employees.
Build Your Greenhouse to Resist Fires
The first step to preventing a fire is to safeguard your greenhouse by complying with building codes and National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements. This ensures your facility is constructed to avoid fires, including installed sprinklers, proper electrical wiring and grounding, and location distance from other buildings.
The layout and design of your greenhouse also contributes to fire prevention. Layout and design tips include but are not limited to:
- Building a separate ventilated area, preferably outside of your facility, to store flammable liquids
- Placing heating systems, electrical equipment, and other combustion-type equipment a safe distance away from flammable materials
- Using non-combustible building materials for walkways and other appropriate areas
Regularly Inspect and Control Fire Hazards
Even with a well-designed and up to code greenhouse facility, safety procedures and routine inspections are required to prevent or control a fire. These include but are not limited to:
- Training employees in recognizing fire hazards, handling chemicals, using fire extinguishers, steps to take in case of fire, and other safety procedures
- Storing flammable chemicals, liquids, and oily rags in proper containers
- Making sure exit ways, aisles, and fire extinguishers are free from obstruction at all times
- Checking the physical and working condition of equipment, including dust and leaks
- Making sure equipment motors and flammable material storage areas are well ventilated
- Testing the performance of fire and smoke alarms regularly
In addition, refer to OSHA standards for workplace fire safety.
Have a Plan If a Fire Does Break Out
Response by your employees can keep a fire from spreading and causing significant damage. Create an emergency response plan with steps to take if a fire does break out, including how and when to use a fire extinguisher, emergency contact numbers to call, and where to exit the facility.
If the fire causes property damages or injuries, the right insurance coverage will protect your greenhouse business from significant financial loss. To get the best coverage for your operational and financial needs, it’s important to know the risks your business faces and what is covered under each type of insurance policy.
For comprehensive insurance that covers losses due to fires, NIP Group offers GrowPro insurance program specifically for greenhouse and horticulture businesses. Contact your insurance broker or visit www.nipgroup.com/programs/growpro for more information.