Fire is, without doubt, one of the most destructive of elements. Unless it's dealt with quickly, a fire can take hold of a building within minutes and cause thousands of pounds-worth of damage not to mention lost business that can take months, even years, to recover.

It is vital to take whatever steps you can to prevent fires in the first place and that includes having proper maintenance arrangements. Paying careful attention to secondary electrical fittings, as well as portable appliances, is essential, according to SME Insurance's claims handler Cunningham Lindsey. Plug sockets can easily get knocked and broken by trolleys, and kettles and toasters used by staff during breaks should be subject to regular Portable Appliance Testing. Problems can also occur if untested items are brought in from home by staff members.

"One store I witnessed had a fire that ended up costing more than £200,000 to put right," says special project director John O'Neill. "But it is possible this could have been averted if a few simple electrical checks had been carried out."

Commercial cooking and food heating must also have a routine maintenance programme to ensure that thermostats operate properly and do not overheat, he adds.

Spaced out

Many c-stores are not blessed with vast amounts of room and so clever use of the available space is essential. This allows more goods to be stocked, but also means there is often more combustible material around. And this increases the chances of any fire taking hold.

"Accumulation of waste is a hazard that every shop owner and manager should pay close attention to," advises O'Neill. "Vast amounts of cardboard packaging is something to watch out for. Ask yourself whether you put yours in suitable bins, located some distance from the shop, or are there accumulations a little closer? Youths lurking around after dark can find this source of combustible material very convenient for starting fires 'just for fun'.

"Equally, if a neighbouring shop owner is allowing rubbish to build up, a fire that starts in his yard could become your problem when the embers settle on your premises."

Make sure that your intruder alarm is working properly, to prevent theft and also to prevent someone breaking in with the express intention of setting fire to your shop, says O'Neill. "Check that all of your perimeter door and window locks are up to standard. Faulty ones should be replaced."

Check your insurance policy

With helpful input from your broker you should have adequate insurance to cover losses in case of a fire. SME recommends Convenience Store Insurance, which meets convenience retailers' specific needs.

An insurance policy is a legal contract between your business and the insurance company and your claim will be paid provided that certain terms and conditions have been met. These terms will include warranties, which you must follow to the letter. Check the wording of any warranties on your policy, particularly any relating to cooking or warming equipment, any minimum security requirements and the intruder alarm.

"Imagine if you found your shop going up in flames, could you say that you had complied fully?" questions O'Neill. "Take steps now carry out a full fire risk assessment and implement any necessary measures to minimise the risk. Look for potential sources of fire in and around the building, stored packing materials, for example, or waste bins situated too near your premises.

"If you manage the risks in your business properly, you can be sure that your insurance policy will be there to help you if the need ever arises."
Why choose Convenience Store Insurance?
Convenience Store has teamed up with the UK's largest commercial insurer, Aviva, to create a competitive, tailored and flexible scheme.

Convenience Store Insurance offers a number of typical benefits as standard, as well as many add-ons such as flood damage, building or tenants improvements, employee dishonesty, frozen food, loss of licence or personal accident.

A broker will ensure that the cover you are offered is truly tailored to your business. So go to www.cstore-insurance.co.uk, or call 0844 855 4664 for a quote and find out how much you could save.

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