The owner of a Plymouth garage has said his "whole life has gone up in flames" after a blaze engulfed his business on Wednesday, including a collection of high-value performance cars.
The man, who has owned the garage for 22 years, estimates the fire will cost him over £160,000 in damage to the building and cars, which included a Porsche Boxter, three Mercedes and a Jaguar.
It is a sorry fact of life that in an instant 22 years of work can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Of course the human cost far outweighs any material possessions lost in a blaze, but it is quite startling the effect a fire can have on a business, not just immediately after but in the medium and long-term as well.
According to the Chief Fire Officers Association, 60% of private businesses affected by fire never recover. And there is more too; the same body estimates that the average cost of a fire in a commercial premises is almost £150,000.
Much more destructive and distressing is the cost of human lives lost to fire. The CFOA report that about 400 people lose their lives to fires in the UK. That is a cost far too great for any person, family or business to bear.
So with the financial and human cost so great you won’t be surprised to hear that there are great lengths you can go to as a business owner to avoid or indeed supress fires before they can wreak havoc.
Fire suppression systems have developed hugely over the last few decades to the point where they are now hugely effective at limiting damage caused by a fire almost instantly, and in some cases stopping them from occurring at all.
Sprinklers are the most commonly used fire suppression system and can be instantly effective, but they are not without their flaws even if they have developed hugely in recent years.
Wet pipe systems can instantly snuff out a fire but it is not always possible to have a room doused in water; think of an over-heating server room. Alternatives are available, such dry pipe systems which use nitrogen instead of water, as well as pre-action which uses a combination of both.
Somewhat more sophisticated approaches are available as well, such as hypoxic air and CO2 systems which reduce the oxygen, or fuel, in a room to prevent fires from starting in the first place.
One fire safety advocate claims that by 2020 fires could cost UK businesses up to £10 billion. In austere times it is imperative businesses do all they can to avoid ruinous fires that will not only cost thousands but put their long-term future at risk.
With that in mind, it is surely worth preparing for the worst in your business by installing the necessary precautions in order to stop the worst from happening.