Ask Angela: What should we do if there’s a dumpster fire?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Angela, this question isn’t meant to be funny, but what if we have a dumpster fire?

Thanks for asking this question – dumpster fires can and do happen. We had a customer not too long ago who had a major fire in a dumpster. Luckily, no one was hurt. But dumpster fires can be deadly, and they can definitely cause a lot of damage. In fact, Fire Engineering Magazine reported on a dumpster fire that caused an explosion at a manufacturing plant. Several firefighters were injured, and unfortunately one person died of their injuries.

To start, let’s talk about dumpster safety. Here are some basic tips for reducing dumpster fire hazard risks:

  • Never dispose of hazardous or flammable materials in a dumpster. There are better, more secure ways to dispose of these items, and we’re working on a guide for that. In the meantime, here are some items you shouldn’t throw in dumpsters.
  • Keep the area clear around the dumpster. If a fire starts outside the dumpster, you don’t want nearby materials igniting and spreading into the dumpster.
  • Post no smoking signs near the dumpster and make sure any employees or building tenants know not to throw lit cigarette butts in or near the dumpster. It only takes one carelessly tossed cigarette to start a fire.

If you do have a dumpster fire, don’t try to extinguish it yourself – call 911. If your dumpster has a hinged lid and you’re able to safely close it, go ahead and close it to help prevent the fire from spreading. Don’t endanger yourself or others, though.  

If the lid is already closed, but you know a fire is burning inside, do not open the lid! Leave it closed and wait for firefighters. Opening the lid could create a backdraft, which would be far more dangerous.

Dumpster fires almost always destroy the dumpster – the lid may melt off if it’s plastic, and any paint or decals will likely be destroyed. The dumpster itself may warp. If any of these things happen, and it’s a rental, contact the rental company after the fire is safely extinguished.

Safety is the first priority during a dumpster fire. After that, there will more than likely be a fire investigation and depending on the circumstances, you may end up owing damages.

The best advice – and this is true for all aspects of life – is to avoid dumpster fires to begin with.

Have you ever had a dumpster fire, or do you have tips for preventing them? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. 

5 Benefits of Storage Containers

When a storm threatens a jobsite, or you’re concerned about potential theft, what’s the safest way to protect your tools and materials? Some contractors think they can save a few dollars and build a temporary structure for storing items overnight. If you’ve installed security cameras and there’s fencing around the site, why bother renting a storage container? That kind of thinking could cost you thousands with one break-in or damaging hailstorm. Rent one or more Storage containers to organize and protect your site.

Benefits of storage containers

Most storage containers are converted cargo containers. Because they’re built to withstand the rigors of sea and train travel, they’re extremely durable and able to withstand wet conditions. There are some considerations when deciding where to install storage containers on a jobsite, but they’re an easy way to organize and protect materials.

Water resistant

Storage containers are designed to safely carry goods on ships and trains, so they’re built to withstand splashing water and storms. It’s advisable to install storage containers on a dry, level surface, perhaps even on a riser if the jobsite is prone to flooding, but they can withstand snow, sleet and hailstorms.

Wind protection

Worried about storm damage to materials or potential water leakage? Storage containers can provide protection. They aren’t airtight, but they can protect construction materials and tools from high winds and rain. Makeshift sheds and storage bins can blow over or fall apart when a storm comes through. But containers are strong enough to withstand rough weather.

Control pests 

Construction sites can be a hotspot for rodents and insects, including mice, spiders and wasps. Wildlife experts say rodent control starts on the construction site. When construction starts, the piles of tools, machinery and building materials provide a place for rodents to hide – especially if the project is large and ongoing. Storage containers can help prevent infestations on site.

Customized solutions

Storage containers can be customized to meet the demands of your worksite. Standard 20- or 40-foot containers are useful for general storage, and they create a central location for tools and materials. They can also be outfitted with shelving and lighting to keep materials organized and accessible, even before dawn or at night. Windows and doors can be added, and they can be climate controlled or plumbed to provide office space or worker break rooms. Ask your provider about custom solutions available in your area.  

Security

Cameras have become standard on jobsites, but a security camera and temporary fencing aren’t enough to stop intrepid thieves. Particularly on jobs where copper wiring and other high-value materials are used. Construction theft costs the industry hundreds of millions per year. Thieves can’t steal what they can’t see, and a locked security container provides extra protection. An internal security camera adds additional protection for high-theft items.  

Storage containers are essential on construction jobsites. Whether you just need space to store tools or you’re looking for a climate-controlled office, we can help you find the right storage solution for your site.