"The total number of fire false alarms attended by the fire service in the UK was 435,700" - The Fire Statistics and Social Research Branch, 2008
Imagine building a business over a number of years, growing a team of dedicated and loyal staff and making continuing investments in new equipment, premises and maybe even a nice new office fit out.
Now imagine that overnight all of that infrastructure and goodwill has been taken away from you in one foul swoop through a careless mistake an oversight, or worse … cutting costs.
This is a very real scenario and one that 80,000 businesses make each and every year. Fire damage and Fire destruction account for almost £1bn in losses and legal fees annually, driving the cost of commercial insurance cover up to astronomical levels and changing the way in which businesses are accountable for ensuring that staff and property are protected within the boundaries of regulation and legislation.
A Fire Risk Assessment is a legal requirement if you are:-
- Responsible for Business Premises in any way
- An Employer or a Self Employed Individual who is responsible for business Premises
- An individual who is responsible for part of a property which is used for business purposes
- A Voluntary Organisation or a Registered Charity
- A Main Contractor with a Responsibility for Part or All of a property
- A Landlord, or other who is responsible for paying guests
There are over 70 individual reference points which relate to Fire Safety contained within the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which came into effect in 2006. This Order applies specifically to all non domestic premises which are situated in England and Wales.
Under this Order, whom ever is the responsible person for the building/premises must carryout a Fire Risk Assessment and take whatever measures are deemed necessary to implement and maintain a satisfactory Fire Management plan.
Ultimately, if you install the right equipment and carry out the correct risk assessments then your only ongoing investment is system maintenance and staff training.
Given the operating diversity of manufacturing processes, call centers, food production, information technology, retailing and many other types of business there will never be a “one size fits all” solution for fire protection in business.
Fire Risk Assessment :: Assessing The Needs of Your Business
As a guide, the process for establishing an effective fire safety regime within your business is detailed below:
1. Take a walk around your property and look at it with a critical eye, making every effort to spot instances of fire risk. The types of things to look out for are:-
- Locations of Flammable Substances
- Type of Flammable Substances and their uses
- Locations of heat sources
- Electrical Installations and Panels
- Staff Locations and Mobility Issues
- Visitors and Associated Areas of Risk
- Escape Routes
- Fire Fighting Equipment
- Blocked walkways
- Poor and ineffective lighting
- Slippery surfaces
- Storage areas and the proximity to combustible sources
- Clearly marked escape routes
- Fire Escape Plans and Up to date building layouts
- The correct provision of Fire Extinguishers
- Waste disposal routines, are you creating an opportunity for fire in your business? Cardboard boxes, waste paper, waste oils and bi-products are all potential fire risks.
- Staff knowledge and training. How often do you refresh your staffs knowledge of fire escape routines and alarm testing?
- Heat sources, do they have the correct level of warning and fire protection? Do you know what type of fire protection is required?
- Emergency lighting, is it in place? What happens when a fire causes electrical failure in your business? How do staff evacuate in the dark?
2. A Professional Fire Risk Assessment
It’s no longer good enough to assume that everything is OK!
After carrying out your own internal Fire Risk Assessment, which in essence is just a quick overview, it is essential that you have a “suitable and sufficient” fire risk assessment carried out by someone who is competent to do so.
Notice that we highlighted “suitable and sufficient”! This is because many owners and organizations have put their business and people at risk by cutting corners and having a DIY approach to something which is quite complex, detailed and needs years of experience to be done properly.
Many businesses have not only put themselves at risk they have also been either been issued with an “enforcement notice” where there is a failure to meet their compliance duties to improve their fire safety, issued a “prohibition notice” which is more serious for immediate life threatening non –compliance issues, this can involve closing a business down or even worse they have been prosecuted by the Fire Service for failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment or other fire safety non-compliance issues.
The best way to avoid these pitfalls and ensure your business, assets and people are protected is to appoint a independent professional Fire Safety company to deliver a detailed Fire Risk Assessment before you commence trading, if you are already trading then this is an even more pressing requirement.
Legislation changed for business in 2006 which made it compulsory for businesses to carry out a detailed and documented Fire Risk Assessment to ensure that all manner of risk has been considered and prevention has been installed where necessary.
3. Fire Safety Compliance for Business
Once you have carried out a full Fire Risk Assessment, depending on the state of your fire safety systems and procedures you may be presented with a list of improvements to deliver within 28 days*. This list should be taken very seriously and may require an investment in alternative equipment, preventative building maintenance fire protection equipment, emergency signage and lighting. By appointing a professional Fire Alarm Company you will place your business ahead of the curve, they will advise you on what type of equipment you require for specific areas of your business.
4. Fire Alarm Maintenance
After installing the correct Fire Alarm System and taking care of the compliance items, you will need to make sure that your business remains compliant. Regular fire alarm system maintenance and fire safety training protocols within your business are essential if you are to remain ahead of the changes in legislation. Ensure you have the following disciplines in place:-
- Fire Alarm Maintenance (at least bi-annually or quarterly)
- Fire Extinguisher Training (at least annually but may need bi-annualy)
- Emergency Lighting Maintenance (at least annually, may be needed bi-annualy)
- Fire Marshall Training (appoint a responsible person and make sure that he/she is trained and refreshed regularly)
- Fire Alarm Testing (weekly, set a day and time and make this a routine)
- Emergency lighting checks (monthly)
- Fire SafetyEvacuation Signage (annually)
- Fire Evacuation Drill (Monthly)
- Fire Extinguisher Check (make sure equipment is in date and is correctly replenished)
- Revisit your Fire Risk Assessment (bi-annually)
- Professional fire risk assessment review (anything from annually to 5 years)
Weighing up the cost of your ongoing investment in fire safety and fire prevention vs non compliance really leaves no room for risk taking, don’t let your business become one of those bad luck statistics take decisive action today and engage with a Fire Safety Specialist for your Fire Risk Assessment, fire extinguishers, Fire alarms, and Fire Alarm Maintenance and all other fire safety requirements.
Additional references which offer guidance for Fire Risk Assessment can be found below:-
For a list of the types of notices issued by the Fire Service go to London Fire.gov
The choice of Fire Alarms available for business/commercial use is extensive and nine times out of ten, making the right decision will require a site survey by a Fire Safety expert to ensure that the system meets the fullest needs from a Fire Safety compliance point of view.
All too often businesses fail to recognise the importance of installing a Fire Alarm System which is fit for purpose and delivers adequate protection. In essence, The Fire Safety needs of one business very much differ to another and whilst operationally they may seem to be similar, the systems that are required for protection and prevention very much depend upon the type of operation, equipment, layout and processes involved in their day to day running.
So how do you know, from all of the fire alarms that are available, which is the right choice for your business?
These are the things that you need to consider:-
- Basic fire safety requirements
- How to know which fire alarm system you need
- How to get the correct quote
- Choosing the right installation and maintenance company
- The importance of proving competence
- The different types of fire systems available
- Different category of fire systems
- Information on types of detection
- Requirements for sounders / means of warning of fire
- The British Standards that apply
- Handover and certification requirements
- Your responsibilities
- Maintenance information
- Ongoing support and lifetime usage
Unless you are (or you employ) a Fire Alarm Expert, you need to speak with someone who can effectively guide you through your operational requirements for making the correct choice. It may be a requirement of your Business Insurance Cover that you comply with current Fire Safety Regulations under a legal act called The Regulatory (Fire Safety) Order or more commonly known as the RRO and deliver adequate protection for your employees and your property.
The Fire Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order – Great Guidance for Business
The Regulatory Reform Pages of www.legislation.gov.uk contains a wealth of guidance for reference and act as a supplementary guide to engaging with a qualified professional who can provide the correct level of advice. The snippets below are a sample of what you should be aware of during your decision making process, they are intended as guidance references and are not aimed to be wholly diagnostic or complete for the purpose of your final decision.
According to the
as a business owner you must take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of any of your employees.
According to the
the responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions.
According to the
The responsible person must make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the size of his undertaking and the nature of its activities, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.
According to the
Where a dangerous substance is present in or on the premises, the responsible person must ensure that risk to relevant persons related to the presence of the substance is either eliminated or reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.
According to the
Where necessary (whether due to the features of the premises, the activity carried on there, any hazard present or any other relevant circumstances) in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons, the responsible person must ensure that—
(a)the premises are, to the extent that it is appropriate, equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment and with fire detectors and alarms; and
(b)any non-automatic fire-fighting equipment so provided is easily accessible, simple to use and indicated by signs.
As you can see, making the right choice is not about the cheapest or the most expensive Fire System, moreover your decision should be informed and made within the boundaries of legislation. Unless you are a Fire Systems Expert you should engage with a Fire Alarms Expert and let them take care of the detail.
Assured Fire and Security are a BAFE approved company and are full members of the Fire Industry Association. This means that we are qualified to provide you with expert advice and guidance relating to the choices that you make for your business when it comes to Fire Safety.
Call Assured Fire and Security for free on
0800 804 6266
for, impartial and expert advice regarding your Fire Alarm Installation.
Other resources for Fire Alarms and Fire Regulations are listed below:-
Legislation.gov.uk The complete Fire Safety Regulation reference
HSE.gov.uk for more information about Work Process Fire Safety
Communities.gov.uk offer advice for businesses and Fire Safety Law
Fire Industry Association (FIA)
BAFE Dedicating to improving standards in Fire Protection
Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) Continuing Improvements in Passive Fire Protection
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Fire services are asking people to take extra care in their homes in order to prevent fires breaking out over the winter months. The risk of fire tends to increase over the winter months as more people use heaters, open fires and electric blankets.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service launched its ‘Safe and Warm’ campaign to help reduce the risk of these kind of incidents.
Diane Malpass from the fire service said: “The number of house fires we attend continues to fall steadily every year. But as winter really starts to bite, we do see a seasonal increase in certain types of incident, such as accidental blazes started by heaters or unsafe electrical appliances. Just asking yourself a few simple questions about the safety of the equipment before switching it on, might be enough to protect you and your family from a serious fire.”
The advice is simple – ensure you always switch off electrical items before going to bed, keep heaters away from curtains and furniture, use guards on open fires and make sure they are no longer burning before going to bed. You should also never use a hot water bottle in the same bed as an electric blanket.
Simple advice that could save your life!
It has been reported that there are now as many as eight attempted cable thefts from UK railways every day and is thought to have cost Network Rail over £40m in the last 2 years.
Police officials say that the crime is seen as “low risk, high return” and the penalties were not severe enough.
MP’s now plan to tackle the problem by giving the police more powers and to enforce strict regulations in the scrap metal industry. Increased use of CCTV surveillance at stations and along train lines is also needed.
Dyan Crowther, from Network Rail said that the problem was highlighted in the north-east of England about two years ago and has since “migrated” across the whole of the UK. Ms Crowther added that these thefts were not just happening at night, but at peak travel time. Ms Crowther said: “It is quite difficult to predict and makes a response very difficult. It is a risk. It is a risk to our network daily and we are working very hard to mitigate those risks.”
The British Transport Police currently has 110 officers working full time on the problem.
Paul Crowther, from the British Transport Police said: “On the railways we have seen significant delays and cancellations as a result of thieves cutting and taking signalling and power cables from the side of the track. There have also been incidents around the country in which homes, businesses and even hospitals have suffered power cuts and surges as a result of criminals stealing copper from power stations.”
Thieves have also been taking manhole covers, domestic gas pipes and lead flashing from homes and churches.
The total cost of metal theft in UK firms is estimated at about £770m per year.
As part of the fire risk assessment which every workplace needs to carry out, a safe fire escape route must be drawn up. This escape plan should be written down, communicated to staff and practised regularly through fire drills.
When coming up with arrangements to evacuate your workplace in an emergency, you should bear in mind the following points:
• Your escape route should be as short as possible
• Think about how many people will be using the escape route. Passageways should be at least one metre wide.
• Consider what you will do if one escape route or emergency exit is obstructed or unusual
• You need to plan at least two backup escape routes, in case the primary one is blocked
• The escape route should be lit with emergency lighting and identified with appropriate signage
• Disabled, elderly and less-abled people will need arrangements making for them
• All employees should be instructed and trained in how to escape the premises safely
In addition to planning your escape route, you should also ensure that fire alarm systems are fitted in the
building and that all firefighting equipment (i.e. fire extinguishers) is maintained properly.
In an emergency, fire suppression systems work to actively eliminate fire. They work alongside fire alarms, which provide an early warning of fire and allow everyone to evacuate the premises in time.
The following are the five main types of fire suppression systems and what they are used for:
Fire suppression systems specifically designed for use in the professional kitchens of restaurants, cafes, canteens and hotels. It is mainly used to put out fires involving ovens, hobs and deep fat fryers.
This is a cost effective and affordable non-fixed fire suppression system, which uses a local application to extinguish fire.
After being triggered by fire alarms, gas suppression systems release an agent to eliminate fire by starving it of heat or oxygen.
4. Water mist
These systems are used in cases where gaseous output is too dangerous to use, such as with cooking equipment and in confined spaces.
5. Foam deluge
Foam systems work in a similar way to water mist systems, but instead use an expanding foam/water solution to suppress fire. They are a more affordable option than sprinkler systems.
You could have every fire safety precaution available installed in your workplace, but these measures would be useless if you and your staff didn’t know how to use them properly in an emergency situation.
This is why people go on basic fire safety awareness training courses; to learn how to prevent fire and what to do if a fire did break out. On one of these courses, you will generally learn about:
• Evacuation procedures and means of escape – including planning an escape route, fitting emergency lighting near fire exits, what to do if your escape route is obstructed
• Calling the emergency services and what information you should provide when fire crews arrive
• How fire extinguishers work and how to use them
• The different types of fire and how each should be extinguished
• Basic fire precautions you should be taking in your workplace (i.e. fire alarms, fire risk assessments)
Whilst it would be acceptable for just one staff member – the ‘responsible’ person, designated to take responsibility for fire safety – to attend one of these fire safety awareness training courses; it is recommended that your whole workforce attends at some time or another. This will raise awareness of fire safety in the workplace, ensuring that everyone is prepared in the event of a fire-related emergency occurring.
The whole point of implementing fire safety measures in your workplace is to prevent and protect against an unexpected outbreak of fire. Unexpected emergencies create panic and chaos, and in this turmoil things can go wrong and people can get hurt. Not everything goes to plan in an emergency, so you need to do as much as possible to prepare.
Emergency lighting can be absolutely vital in a fire, mainly as it helps you to evacuate everyone from the building as quickly as possible. If the power and lights cuts out – i.e. due to an electrical fire – people may not be able to find their way to the planned escape route and fire exits. Emergency lighting can point the way to the emergency exits, as well as providing much-needed light to keep people calm.
The provision of this sort of fire safety measure should be included as part of your fire risk assessment, in which you analyse the risks in your workplace and implement changes to make the property safer for employees, visitors and members of the public. So, make sure you install emergency lighting along with fire alarms, emergency exits and fire extinguishers.
As most individuals and business owners know, installing fire alarms is one of the best ways to protect people and property from the dangers of an unexpected blaze. They provide an early warning of fire, allowing people to evacuate the property safely and the emergency services to be called.
Some properties, however, may require fire safety devices that deal with fire more directly – such as fire suppression systems. Businesses which use highly flammable materials, chemicals or significant heat on a daily basis could benefit from these systems, allowing them to protect their critical systems and add an extra line of defence against fire.
The fire suppression systems available at present fall into the following categories:
• Gas – These systems extinguish fire by releasing a gas agent into a certain area and starving the fire of oxygen.
• Foam – Made from a mix of expanding foam and water, these systems are an affordable fire suppression solution
• Kitchen – Designed specifically for restaurant and hotel kitchens, these systems are used near fryers and hobs ready to tackle any fire that breaks out in the course of regular cooking.
• Reacton – This system is ideally used for local applications, to extinguish fires in small areas
• Water mist – When using gas to extinguish a fire is not a viable option, water mist fire suppression systems can be effectively used.
Officials from certain local authorities have warned residents that they may suffer burglar or even fire alarm malfunctions this winter due to very low temperatures.
Gedling Borough Council, in particular, has received a number of complaints about intruder alarms sounding recently and causing a nuisance or disturbance with neighbours. The authority’s public protection team believes that the alarms’ tamper sensors may have been triggered by the recent cold temperatures.
Offering some much-needed advice to local residents, the team recommends buying high-quality alarm systems which are fitted with a cut-off device. This sort of mechanism will shut off the alarm after 20 minutes, the amount of time after which the council has legal powers to silence the alarm itself.
It is also important to maintain all types of alarms properly, including checking the batteries on fire alarms and keeping all alarms in good, working condition.
Gedling Borough Council’s safe and sustainable neighbourhoods chief, Councillor Carol Pepper, said:
“Investing in a burglar alarm is a wise move to protect your home from intruders. Unfortunately, this cold weather has caused many alarms to sound unnecessarily and we urge residents to make sure their alarms are checked and working properly.”