A rash of salon fires reminds salon owners just how much they stand to lose. Knowing the potential fire dangers that exist in your salon and taking steps to curb them, as well as determining what your business is worth and getting good insurance coverage will help prevent a fire in your salon and minimize its effects should the worst come to pass.
Call in the Professionals
The last thing Coral Pleas, co-owner of Yellow Strawberry Global Salon in Sarasota, Fla. expected after she lost the entire second floor of her full-service salon to fire was help from a complete stranger.
“This man walked in right after the fire and said he was a mediator and could deal with our insurance company for us,” says Pleas. “At first I got angry and called him an ambulance chaser. But it turns out that there are people who actually deal with insurance companies for a living. And this guy was a life-saver; he saved us a good deal of money.
“There was $200,000 worth of fire damage. It was overwhelming but we never had to deal with the insurance thanks to our mediator,” says Pleas. “He went over our insurance policy with a fine-tooth comb and found coverage that I didn’t even know we had. We were still under-insured but he saved us about $47,000 for damage that we didn’t initially know we had coverage for.”
After a fire salon owners are particularly vulnerable with so many new responsibilities and concerns. Enlisting the help of professionals helps to relieve some of the stress of the situation and provide you with an invaluable source of information. Reputable mediators generally charge a percentage of what the insurance company awards, but their help and expertise, as Pleas learned, often outweigh the fee. That said, be careful whom you trust.
If hiring a mediator is not an option, helpful insurance agents, insurance-appointed adjusters, and experienced salon owners are also invaluable sources of support and information. Before there is ever a fire, however, Pleas recommends that when salon owners are deciding on coverage that they not do it on their own. “Get an insurance agent up to your salon and have him see exactly what you have in terms of property and inventory,” says Pleas. Have your agent thoroughly explain your policy so that there is no question as to what is covered.
Tips From Fire Survivors
- Keep client information safe. If you use a computerized system, back it up often and keep the back-up files off the premises. If your records are paper and pen, consider investing in a computerized system. Frequently make copies of client information and keep them off the premises.
- Look for the positive to keep you motivated. “Our fire ended up being a blessing,” says Coral Pleas, owner of Yellow Strawberry Global Salon in Sarasota, Fla. “We’ve taken advantage of the situation and we’re remodeling our first floor as well.”
- Have an insurance agent come to your salon to help you determine your coverage needs, including products, supplies, appliances, and computers. “You have no idea what you have until you lose everything,” says Pleas.
- Maintain good relationships within the industry. Colleagues may be able to donate supplies, take in your clients or employees temporarily, or loan you equipment.
- Be aware of the threat of arson. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, “In commercial properties, arson is the major cause of deaths, injuries, and dollar loss.” Be aware of people who may wish to harm your business, report any suspicious activity, keep boxes, trash, wood, and other combustibles away from your building, and never open doors that are hot to the touch.
- Have an escape plan. Make sure all exits are clearly marked and easily accessible. If you have a large staff, establish a meeting place where everyone may be accounted for.
- Know exactly who and what your insurance policy covers. Encourage employees/booth renters to get separate coverage if necessary.
- Keep precise records of what is in the salon. Current videotapes of your salon are an easy way to maintain an adequate record. Keep receipts for business purchases safely offsite.
- Keep coverage updated. If your business increases in value due to major purchases, move, or remodel make sure coverage reflects it – don’t just renew your policy each year.
What’s That smell?
Many salon fires come like a thief in the night, when no one is around – but many salon fires ignite during business and you must ensure the safety of your staff and clients. Proper action during the first few minutes of a fire is key to minimizing property damage and preventing injuries and the loss of life.
If a fire erupts during business hours, immediately call the fire department, regardless of the size of the fire. In a salon setting a small fire can easily become a blazing inferno. Once a fire has erupted, time is of the essence and having a plan shaves precious seconds off your response time. If you doubt your ability to extinguish a fire, immediately evacuate the premises. Close – but do not lock – the doors as you leave.
Use your judgment. Only attempt to fight a blaze if: 1) you know the type of combustible material that is burning; 2) you know how to use the fire extinguisher and it is properly rated for the type of fire; 3) the fire is still in the beginning stage; 4) the fire will block your exit if you fail to put it out.
When purchasing fire extinguishers be aware that different fire extinguishers are meant to fight specific types of fire. Using the wrong type of extinguisher may be dangerous and cause further damage or injury.
- Type A extinguishers are labeled with a triangle and are meant for use on fire with ordinary combustibles (cloth, wood, rubber).
- Type B extinguishers are labeled with a square and are meant for flammable liquid fires such as oil, paints, lacquers, and solvents.
- Type C extinguishers are labeled with a circle and are meant for use on electrical fires involving wiring, fuse boxes, and other electrical sources.