How to Prevent Electrical Fires in Older Commercial Buildings

Electrical fires are a major hazard in older commercial buildings. As wiring and electrical systems age, they become prone to failure that can result in dangerous and costly fires. Thankfully, there are steps I can take to significantly reduce the risk of electrical fires in my older commercial property.

Inspect the Electrical System Regularly

The first line of defense is regular electrical inspections and maintenance. I should have a licensed electrician inspect the building's wiring, circuit breakers, and electrical equipment at least once a year. They can spot potential electrical hazards like:

The electrician can make any needed repairs to keep the electrical system operating safely. I should also have them inspect after any major electrical event like a storm, flood, or power surge that could damage system components.

Replace Obsolete and Damaged Electrical Equipment

Older electrical switches, receptacles, lighting, appliances and equipment are more prone to break down and malfunction. I should have the electrician identify and replace any:

Updating obsolete electrical equipment removes potential ignition sources and prevents overloads.

Keep Electrical Areas Clean and Unobstructed

Accumulated dust and dirt buildup on electrical equipment causes overheating. Storing combustible materials near electrical devices is extremely hazardous. I should:

Good housekeeping practices prevent electrical equipment from overheating and reduce fuels for possible ignition.

Install Arc-Fault Circuit Breakers

Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are an important new safety device. Unlike standard breakers that just sense overloads, AFCIs also detect dangerous electrical arcing. Arcing can ignite nearby combustibles before overcurrent protection kicks in. I should have a qualified electrician install AFCI breakers:

These advanced breakers help halt arc-related fires before they can spread.

Use Safe Electrical Practices

I should establish and follow safe electrical practices in my building, including:

Safe electrical practices by all staff help avoid electrical dangers.

Install Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting that comes on automatically during a power outage helps avoid risky behavior like lighting candles or struggling in the dark. I should:

Adequate emergency lighting prevents accidents and fires during outages.

Have a Qualified Electrician Do All Electrical Work

Attempting electrical work without proper training and experience can create serious hazards. For any new electrical installation or modifications I should always hire a licensed electrician following all codes and standards. Likewise, only a qualified electrician should perform the system inspections, maintenance and repairs discussed above. Paying for professional electrical expertise helps keep my building's electrical system running safely for years to come.


Electrical fires are a real risk in aging commercial buildings, but with proper safety practices the threat can be significantly reduced. Regular inspections, maintenance, and upgrades by licensed electricians keeps vulnerable electrical systems operating safely. Installing arc-fault breakers provides maximum protection. Good housekeeping and safety policies prevent many electrical fire hazards. With the proper vigilance and care, I can help prevent catastrophic electrical fires in my older commercial property.