How to Minimize Electrical Fire Hazards in Older Commercial Buildings

How to Minimize Electrical Fire Hazards in Older Commercial Buildings


Electrical fires are a major risk in older commercial buildings. Faulty wiring, outdated electrical systems, and poor maintenance practices can all increase the chances of an electrical fire starting. As the owner or manager of an older commercial building, it is critical to understand where potential electrical hazards exist and how to minimize them. By taking proactive steps, you can greatly reduce the risks and protect your building, employees, and customers.

In this comprehensive guide, I will cover key areas to focus on to improve electrical safety, specific hazards to look out for, tips for regular inspections and maintenance, and when professional contractors should be brought in. Adopting these best practices can significantly reduce your fire risk.

Conduct a Thorough Electrical Inspection

The first step is to conduct a detailed inspection of your building's entire electrical system. While regular inspections should be scheduled, a comprehensive baseline assessment will identify potential hazards. Focus on these key areas:

Electrical Panels and Switchboards

Wiring and Cables

Electrical Devices and Fixtures

Address Identified Hazards and Deficiencies

The inspection process will highlight areas that require maintenance, upgrades or replacement. Developing a plan and addressing these findings is key to reducing risks.

Repair Deteriorated Wiring and Connections

Fixing corroded connections, ground faults and damaged insulation should be a top priority. Consult an electrician if significant wiring issues are uncovered.

Upgrade Outdated Equipment

Older switchgear, panels, and breakers should be replaced with up-to-date equivalents. Newer arc-fault and ground-fault interrupters can prevent fires.

Increase Electrical Capacity if Needed

If circuits are found to be overloaded, adding new dedicated circuits and panels may be required to meet building needs and codes.

Add Fire Prevention Devices

Smoke detectors, fire alarms, and sprinkler systems tailored to electrical areas can contain fires before major damage occurs.

Perform Regular Maintenance and Inspections

After addressing any major issues, establishing recurring maintenance procedures is crucial. A regular schedule of inspections, testing, and preventative maintenance helps spot problems early.

Monthly Infrared Scans

Use infrared thermography monthly to check for hot spots and heat build-up on electrical systems. Address problems immediately.

Quarterly Inspections

Conduct a full visual inspection of the electrical system each quarter. Check wiring, fixtures, panels, and devices for issues. Verify breakers are properly rated.

Annual Load Testing

Hire an electrician annually to conduct load testing on circuits and panels to ensure the system can safely handle demands.

Preventative Maintenance

Establish a schedule for cleaning panels, testing breakers, replacing surge protectors, and tightening connections. Replace old extension cords.

When to Call In Electrical Contractors

While properly trained facility managers can execute much of the preceding, electrical contractors should be utilized:

Foster an Electrical Safety Culture

Promoting continuous awareness and safe behaviors regarding electricity is important.

Proactively managing electrical systems, trained personnel, and a culture of safety are the keys to minimizing electrical fire risks in older commercial buildings. Let this guide set you on the path to significantly reducing hazards. By putting these best practices into action, you can protect your people, property, and business.