PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) -- During the pandemic, businesses took hit after hit, and often, companies were faced with tough choices to stretch the budget. James Tomes, the president and CEO of Telgian, a Phoenix-based company that specializes in fire safety, said he is concerned that some businesses may have deferred inspections and maintenance because of COVID-19.

"Coming out of COVID, people need to bring their safety standards back up," Tomes told 3 On Your Side. In the company’s fire lab, Tomes explained what can happen if things don’t work like they’re supposed to.

"If you don’t maintain the equipment, say you have a sprinkler head that’s blocked or covered, now you could have a large event, where perhaps you lose the entire structure or you have a big event and it takes you weeks and months to re-open instead of maybe a matter of hours," he said.

It’s likely not something the average consumer thinks about when choosing a restaurant, store, theater or hotel.

"Consumers don’t make decisions around fire protection, right? My favorite restaurant in town is LON's. I love going there, but no one ever went on Yelp and said, 'Oh, I'm going to LON's tonight because they have a five-star rating for fire protection,'" Tomes said. "I used that as an example that fire protection doesn’t drive consumer behavior."

But it is critical to operations, and Tomes says throughout the pandemic, some businesses have fallen behind on regular maintenance of their fire safety systems.

"A lot of businesses were faced with these choices; do I pay my water bill, do I pay my janitor, or do I keep my fire protection equipment up to date?" Tomes said. "Now that things are moving again, we think it’s time to start getting systems back where they need to be."

It all starts with inspections. The National Fire Protection Association has a checklist of everything businesses need to do to make sure they’re up to code, including inspections of sprinklers and emergency lighting. The NFPA says businesses must also ensure the hand sanitizer, which is flammable, is stored in small quantities and nowhere near sources of ignition.

"You got through COVID, you kept your business alive, and now you have a fire and that can be the one final blow to your business that shuts you down permanently," Tomes said. "This is why we think it’s an important conversation right now."

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