Rural insurer NFU Mutual is urging business owners to make fire safety a priority after it revealed that it paid out over £43 million in claims for commercial fires in 2012.

Topping the list of claims with identified causes were fires caused by arson, electrical faults, electrical equipment and fires in commercial vehicles.

Commenting on the issue, Georgina Farndon, Commercial Development Manager at NFU Mutual said: “Research suggests that 80% of businesses that suffer a major incident such as a fire fail within 18 months. Firms need to have a business continuity plan and know how to deal with what happens after a fire. Many are simply not equipped to survive after a major catastrophe.

“It’s not just physical assets, such as premises and equipment, which are at risk from fire: the loss of data can be equally devastating for a business.”

Local authority fire and rescue services attended 102,000 fires in England between April and September 2013 and businesses in rural areas will have to wait, on average, three minutes longer for the fire brigade to arrive than their urban counterparts.

In addition to the damage to physical assets, NFU says many business owners neglect to consider how the business might continue to function whilst premises are repaired or rebuilt and new stock and machinery are purchased. 
Business Interruption insurance will cover a business for any periods when it cannot trade as normal because of an event resulting in damage to property on the premises, such as fire, flooding or an essential piece of equipment breaking down.

All businesses in the UK are legally required to carry out an assessment of the risk of fire within your premises and the precautions you have in place, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.