It’s astonishing how fast it can all go up in flames. A mislain cigarette on a cannabis farm in Monterey County lead to a hungry fire that devoured half the farm in August. It was a big announcement when Loudpack Farms stated they would not lay off anyone as a result of the damage, because they are the largest employer near the city of Greenfield.
Protecting your business from the unexpected
How can you protect your business from fires like this one? There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of a fire causing major damage. To obtain a license in California, safety plans and protocols are required, so this Monterey cannabis farm likely had official policies in place. Their employee, however, did not follow those policies when lighting a cigarette between the greenhouses one late afternoon, causing the blaze.
There are several points to consider when planning to reduce your fire hazard risk:
- Improperly disposing of cigarettes is a known source of residential and commercial fires and can be a threat to commercial properties as well. Employees should be trained on where they are allowed to smoke cigarettes on the premises (if anywhere), and proper disposal containers should be provided and properly serviced to minimize the risk of fires. Plan to keep smoking areas clear of dry materials like mulch or paper.
- Other fire causes can include faulty electrics. This can mean anything from loose wires, overloaded plugs, or outdated equipment. Kitchen appliances like toaster ovens and microwaves can also be a potential source of a fire hazard if they are not properly cleaned, maintained, and replaced when needed.
- Ensure your staff are familiar with the safety protocols and emergency plans that the facility has in place. They should know what they need to do in an emergency so they can act without hesitation.
- Train your staff so they understand the proper protocols of handling chemicals, fertilizers, and other potential flammable material.
- Ensure all your smoke alarms are functioning.
- Ensure all your fire extinguishers have been recently serviced and are appropriate for the types of fires you might expect at your facility.
Agriculture fires are relatively rare in the U.S. compared to other sources of structure fires. The most common structure fires in homes: 79.2% of all structure fires from 2010-2014 were residential in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association. During that same time frame, only 0.5% were on agricultural/industrial/utility/defense/mining properties, and only 1% were at manufacturing/processing facilities.
Though there are far more residential fires every year, fires and explosions still account for 3% of workplace fatalities, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Luckily, no one was injured or killed in the Loudpack Farms fire.
While there are many steps you can take to improve your fire protection, you can only do so much. You can’t prevent every possible fire threat. That is why so many businesses choose to include fire protection in their growers insurance package. The right cannabis insurance policy can help your business weather disaster and help keep the business running for the sake of your staff, your community, and yourself.