Dec 11 2017

Are Shoppers and Stores at Risk of Fire Complacency?

Christmas trees in every store window, panicked people scrambling for a last-minute gift, masses of others hungry for a Boxing Day Bargain - it’s starting to feel a lot like shopping season 

The average Australian plans to spend just under $1000 in Christmas shopping, which translates into a whole country full of packed shopping centres, from Broome to Bondi. Last on the list of concerns for shoppers and stores? Fire safety. 

In this article, we ask the question whether shoppers and stores are at risk of fire safety complacency.



Are Shopping Centres Fire Safe?

Fire safety is taken seriously in Australia, and all commercial buildings must comply with certain industry codes to ensure they’re safe for employees and consumers. However, as any firefighter or consultant will tell you, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to risk. 

There have been several shopping centre fires in recent years, like the blaze at Seven Hills Plaza that desired buildings and caused a wide evacuation. So are shopping centres as fire safe as we’re led to believe?

A study conducted by OneSteel and Victoria University highlighted the most common fire risks in larger commercial buildings, which included;

  • Electrical faults or arson
  • Fires that started in storage areas and ceiling spaces
  • Fire spreading quickly through ceiling space
  • Partial and ineffective sprinkler systems

The report also found that in the space of just 10 years, the USA suffered 77,996 retail fires.


Are Shoppers Safe?

The OneSteel and Victoria University study highlighted some worrying trends about the fire complacency of shoppers in large retail spaces. It found that:

  • Fire alarms are unlikely to be enough to initiate an evacuation
  • Some shoppers are only likely to evacuate with a presence of firefighters
  • Some shoppers are only likely to evacuate when they see a mass of others doing so
  • Some shoppers are reluctant to use any other exits than major entry and exit points

It’s clear that shoppers aren’t thinking ‘fire’ when going about their shopping, and understandably so. However, it’s important for them to take emergency situations seriously.



Combatting Retail Fire Risks

Just like in an office or residential environment, there are several fire hazards that exist in a retail environment, including:

  • Non-operational or partial sprinkler systems that can’t penetrate in-store partitions
  • Electrical and wiring faults
  • Poorly maintained equipment
  • Faulty store appliances
  • Switchboard failures
  • Poor retail staff training
  • Poor shopper emergency response 

Retail fit outs can also pose significant fire risks if they incorporate non-compliant materials and are poorly installed. For example, light fixtures that aren’t correctly installed can pose risk of electrical fire, and store decorations with short flashover times can contribute to rapid fire spread in the case of a blaze.


Fire Safe Artificial Green Walls

At Evergreen Walls, we understand the importance of retail fire safety for shoppers and staff. Artificial plant walls have become popular fixtures in retail fit outs, and our Evergreen Panel is the only product on the market that has achieved a formal Group 2 fire certification after testing in compliance with industry standards AS ISO 9705-2003 and AS 5637.1:2015.

The test was conducted in a laboratory in Victoria, with a total of 45 panels being analysed for heat release rate, smoke output and several other factors.

To learn more about improving the fire safety of your retail fit out with safe and stunning artificial green walls, get in touch with us today.

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