The National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association provides a lot of good information and guidelines that will minimise the risk associated with a greenhouse fire. The information includes safe work habits, practical suggestions, and emergency planning. The information was carefully put together after obtaining expert advice from a wide spectrum of industry professionals. The number one objective of their guideline is to promote awareness but it should be noted that the guideline is not intended to create specifications, replace codes, or set standards.
There are many greenhouses in existence around the world, and many of them are relatively isolated from a nearby fire station that has the proper equipment to deal with a greenhouse fire. Also, a greenhouse operation might not have ample enough water access close by to deal with a significant fire. Large greenhouse operations that use technically advanced wiring and equipment also may not schedule a regular maintenance programme. Packaging, plant containers, shade cloth, and glazing are all combustible fuels. Therefore, it is easy to imagine how a greenhouse fire could spread quickly. Such a fire and the resulting economic losses would be devastating.
Greenhouse materials are selected for their useful features and properties, but these materials may often have an unforeseen or undesired risk as being combustible or as a point of ignition. Greenhouses utilise electrical components which can short-circuit and produce sparks. Due to the unique environment in a greenhouse, and because of greenhouse materials, it is, therefore, necessary to properly manage all fire risks.
A fire in a greenhouse, as mentioned previously, can travel quickly throughout the facility. Facilities and crops are usually severely damaged whenever a fire occurs. A fire in a greenhouse will not only interrupt the business aspect of a company, but it will also impact the lives of customers, employees, and owners. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken in both management and planning that will reduce the risk of fire.
Greenhouse fire risks can be broken down into three main areas. The three areas include risk management, greenhouse fire risk assessment, fire risks, and causes of greenhouse fires. The causes of greenhouse fires can be further broken down into combustible materials and fire origins. Fire origins include hot work, heating, electrical, spontaneous combustion, and smoking.
The first step towards fire prevention is to follow approved technical standards. The greenhouse should be well designed and compliant with local building codes. Building codes are incorporated four the protection of public safety, health, and welfare. It is vital to determine which code requirements are necessary early in the project. Have the building contractor apply early for any permits to avoid construction delays. This will prevent shortcuts because of time restraints and deadlines.
It is important to remember that any obstruction to a fire will buy time for either saving the facility or helping with the evacuation. Four example, a closed fire door can prevent a fire from quickly spreading to an adjacent room. Some of the fire resistant materials that a builder may consider when building a greenhouse include metal frame buildings, fire retardant glazing, fire safe screens and adequately exhausted heating appliances.
Within a greenhouse environment, it is advised to use waterproof receptacles, waterproof wiring, and enclosed electric motors. This will be especially beneficial when hosing down or pressure washing the facility. One typical error that causes many greenhouse fires is the overloading of circuits. Therefore, circuits should never be overloaded. Each circuit should be protected by a circuit breaker or fuse that will break when a circuit goes beyond its safe carrying capacity. Also, avoid installing an electrical panel box in an area of excessive moisture.
Other important things to consider to prevent greenhouse fires include insulation quality, lights, motors and fans, tools and appliances, generators, combustion heaters, smoke and fire early warning detectors, fire extinguishers, and storage of combustibles or accelerants.
Finally, it is essential to have an emergency and fire prevention response plan in place. All employees should understand completely any appropriate duties that they may have during a fire emergency. Utilise the benefits of having regular inspections, have ample insurance coverage, and keep your local fire department informed. In fact, invite your local fire department to the greenhouse and ask them four their advice about any potential fire hazards.