If you pulled up on this store front or one like it, what is your first course of action?
With a fire or just a haze, one of the first things that needs to be done, with an attack line ready, is to start looking above the drop ceiling. Even if it is drywall, you have to see what is above you in these occupancies.
These types of occupancies are found in fast food establishments, sit down restaurants and strip mall type buildings. Most of these new commercial buildings are all light weight, truss, engineered lumber construction.
By lifting the tiles and breaching the ceiling, we know how far the fire has advanced before committing people into these buildings. The concealed spaces are important for initial fire attack in these situations. It might indicate that the front door is as far as you go.
You have to consider, however, that the overhang outside the front door could be compromised if fire is found in the void spaces of the ceiling. Fire could be racing through the soffit of the overhang out front. Additional weight of signs will also cause early failure of these building features.
Remember to think on your feet and be sound in your decisions. These decisions come from experience and training. So, train hard and often.
Stay safe and be careful.
Photo from the Fillmore Gazette