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Holiday Merchants Urged to Keep Stores Safe for Customers

Fire and rescue officials said store exits must be unblocked and aisles kept clear holiday decorations and merchandise.

All those extra shippings of holiday goods that stores receive could pose a threat to their customers if merchants aren't careful, according to the Prince Wiliam County Fire and Rescue department.

While a store crowded with shoppers isn't necessary a bad thing for merchants, some effort should be made to monitor how many people are in the store at one time, to avoid going over the maximum occupancy allowed by the county or city fire marshal.

Here are some of the rules and guidelines for local business owners this holiday season: 

Holiday merchandise can't be stored in front of an exit or within 18 inches of a sprinkler head, fire officials said.

If there isn't a sprinkler system, items must be kept at least two feet away from the ceiling and any of its support assembly parts.

Additionally, sprinkler valves and fire extinguishers can't be blocked, fire staff said.

It's also a good idea to limit the amount of merchandise on the floor, so the pathways are kept clear.

When it comes to store decorations, they must be treated with a fire retardant, fire officials said. 

According to Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code, 703.3, it's illegal to hang goods and decorations from ceilings that are a part of a fire resistant-rated ceiling, roof or floor assembly. 

Fire marshals and other officials will visit stores during the holiday shopping season to make sure they are in compliance with applicable laws.

For more information about fire safety, call the Manassas Park Fire Department or the Prince William County Fire Department.

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