Protecting Business Documents From Fire
When all is said and done, when the dust settles and smoke clears, the most important thing about fire safety is ensuring that everyone within the business and surrounding it is safe and unharmed. That is your primary responsibility as the ‘responsible person’ within a business.
However, once that has been ensured and once you’re certain that everyone within the business is accounted for and safe should an emergency occur, your next natural concern is protecting the business. After all, it’s what puts bread on the tables, roofs over heads and, depending on the kind of business it may provide a valuable service to those in need.
In the event of an emergency, you want to protect the business, so that it can get back up and operational, as fast as possible.
How do you protect a business from fire?
The first step is to identify everything within the business that is essential to its operation. This could be important files and records that store customer information or details. It could be codes, resources and practices that document how certain business tasks should be run. It could be certification that proves your business can legally operate within its sector – anything that, should the worst happen, the business would struggle to operate without.
When looking for this information, keep an open mind. The information doesn’t have to be physical. The information could be on paper, but it could also be stored on a computer, online or (in the worst case scenario) in the mind of an employee. What happens if you were to lose these documents and information, would the company recover?
Once you’ve audited your company to ensure that all documents essential to the running of the business have been identified, it’s time to implement a strategy for protecting it.
Initially, you want to protect the primary documents – the original copies. Store all documents in a safe place, with both active and passive fire protection methods around it. In an ideal world, the documents will be stored in a room with no ignition sources such as power outlets, heaters or lighting. The room would be its own individual compartment, protected from fire for the maximum amount of time available, with its own dedicated fire door and fire suppression systems and documents will be stored in fire resistant and water resistant containers. Naturally this isn’t always feasible. For most businesses, a fire resistant cabinet, away from high risk areas of the business is sufficient.
Next, secondary documents should be created and protected – backups. Copies of original data should be stored, particularly in the case of electronic data. This allows copies of the documents to be on hand, should the primary documents be lost. Since electronic data is more volatile than simple paper, regular and complete back-ups should be conducted to ensure the most up to date documents. Electronic data (if practical) should be printed and stored with physical documents, and physical documents should be digitised and stored. This way multiple redundancies can protect from data failure and loss.
Finally off-site data back-ups must be created. Off-site data back-ups are a genuine “must do” for any business that is serious about protecting data from loss. Should a fire rage out of control and destroy the entire premises, no amount of back-ups will help the business if they’re all stored in the same place. Off-site back-ups mean that, even if the entire premises if destroyed, the necessities of the business remain unharmed, and can be rebuilt. This is part of the reason why “cloud” storage has seen a rise in popularity, it’s a simple, convenient and constantly updated off-site backup option.