February 2018
Mt. San Antonio from Rancho Cucamonga: photo by Amanda Walker
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Fire District Performs Fire & Safety Assessments for Small Businesses

The Fire District aims to ensure safe operation of local businesses through the Small Business Fire & Safety Assessment program.

We know that small businesses are most vulnerable, and a startling 40 percent of businesses never re-open after a major disaster. Since our businesses are the heart of our community's economic well being, this program encourages critical disaster planning. A team of Fire District inspectors, led by the Fire Marshal, will work with local businesses throughout the City to ensure they are free of hazards that could injure employees or customers, or cause enough damage to close the business for days or weeks.

"When a small business suffers an emergency or disaster, we know that puts employees out of work, disrupts business operations and cash flow, and adversely impacts the local economy," says Fire Marshal Rob Ball. "The employees or business owners, in turn, may suffer personal financial challenges as a result of these emergencies and disasters, most of which can be prevented and avoided."

With small businesses accounting for 99 percent of all companies and 50 percent of all private sector employees in the U.S., they are vital to a strong local economy. Conducting a fire and life safety assessment in these businesses can help identify hazards and conditions that could lead to a fire or other preventable disaster. This detection helps avoid harmful impacts to our community's economic engine.

Annual inspections of schools, hospitals, apartments, hotels, and places of assembly, such as churches and larger restaurants, are already required by law. Inspections of businesses, though valuable, are conducted at the discretion of the local Fire Department. The Fire District, which has historically focused its discretionary inspections on high hazard businesses in industrial areas, also allocates inspection time in commercial and retail centers where a disaster could affect many businesses and the economy at large.

"Commercial and retail centers are where many of our small businesses operate," explains Fire Marshal Ball. "A fire or other significant event in one business often adversely impacts other businesses in the center. Combine that with the fact that many small businesses have a difficult time recovering from temporary closures and the result is our most vulnerable businesses are generally not those that are strictly regulated by the Fire Code."

The Fire District's Small Business Fire & Safety Assessment program is much more than an inspection program. "What we are offering to the commercial and retail centers and the businesses that operate in them," explains Community Affairs Coordinator Kelley Donaldson, "is the combined safety and preparedness services of our Prevention, Community Engagement, and Emergency Management programs. We want our businesses to be safe, be aware of what they can do to avoid disruptions to business operations, and be resilient with the ability to recover quickly from unavoidable disasters." For more information on the assessment program, please visit www.RCFire.org.