All it takes is the combination of all three elements of the "Fire Triangle" to destroy a business in a few minutes. It often starts in the warehouse. Just mix oxygen, a fuel source and a heat source.

Case in point:  a 35,000 square-foot Texas warehouse was crippled in August 2012 after stacks of plastic pallets burned for six hours. By the time more than 120 firefighters extinguished the blaze, $9 million in damage was done. A report from the local fire department noted the pallets reached 18 feet high, a fire code violation, and that sprinkler valves were turned off. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 114,000 non-home structure fires occurred in the United States in 2011. The fires caused $2.8 billion in property damage, injuries, devastation to companies' bottom lines and—in the most severe cases—death. Fire code violations can contribute to the extent of the damage. To limit the risk of destruction caused by fires, it is important to consider several things in order to fireproof a warehouse.

Choose the Right Equipment

Ensuring your building has the necessary fire protection equipment is crucial. This includes fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, alarm systems, emergency lights and exit signs. Equipment must also be properly maintained in order to remain compliant with NFPA codes and to best protect your facility and employees. Enlist the help of a licensed and certified fire protection service provider to complete inspections, safety tests and repairs for the following:

Fire Extinguishers

Regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and NFPA require functioning, portable fire extinguishers. These must be properly located, easily accessible, fully charged and ready for immediate use. Units also need to be maintained, inspected and retagged annually.

A licensed fire protection service provider can conduct thorough examinations and handle repairs, recharging or replacement. This involves ensuring the units are not blocked, the pressure is at the recommended level and no dents or chemical deposits are visible. They will also confirm your facility has the right type of extinguisher(s) for the most likely fire hazard (see "The ABCs of Fire Extinguishers" sidebar). Lastly, fire protection service providers document fire extinguisher data so you can easily demonstrate compliance with national, state and local requirements.