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19 June 2018
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The number of fire incidents attended by Fire Brigades is a downward trend but there were around 155,000 fire incidents in England in 2014/15, with 7,569 casualties and 263 fire related deaths. Here, Nick Hickman at Surrey County Council shares advice on steps FM professionals can take to protect their organisations.

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9 January 2017 | Nick Hickman

Fire safety in non-domestic premises covered is covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order – to comply with this legislation you need understanding and experience over a wide range of equipment, building structures and people.

A risk assessment (carried out by a competent person) can give you a clear picture of the hazards and risks your business and premises face and how to mitigate them and avoid court fines and probation/enforcement notices from a fire authority. Reputation damage should be considered along with insurance costs.

1. Carry out essential maintenance 

Ensure that your contractors are carrying out all essential testing for your buildings systems such as fire alarms, emergency escape lights, boilers, lightning protection, five year fixed wiring testing, kitchen ductwork cleaning, fire extinguishers and fire dampers. Some equipment requires regular testing by facilities staff such a weekly fire alarm and escape lighting testing.

2. Be aware of building voids

Even new buildings can have the fire compartment walls and ceilings breached due to the fitting of new services including data/voice cabling, HVAC piping, fire alarm or fire doors control wiring. Fire curtains in loft voids may be breached then contractors have accessed them for maintenance (perhaps even to test smoke detectors). Fire doors are required to have cold smoke seals and intumescent strips – are these in working order and if the beading on the vision panels secure?

3. Are staff aware?

Having a Fire Evacuation Routine & Record Book for your evacuation plan is essential if you have sleeping accommodation. Explain the different type and applications of fire extinguishers, how to test equipment and record training and cyclical maintenance. Question whether staff understand what to do if they hear a fire alarm signal, how to operate fire call points, or what the escape routes are. Consider whether you need a policy for the use of personal electrical equipment. If you have a lift can you evacuate disabled persons?

4. Hazardous equipment

Do you know what the risks are in your building? These can include electrical items such a fixed equipment and wiring, larger items such as washing machines and tumble dryers, dishwashers, cooking, and portable equipment such as electronic cigarette chargers, heating devices, flammable liquids and even oxidising products. Are candles used in the building and do you have specialised equipments that needs to be stored in an appropriate container when not in use?

5. Consider external threats

Are you aware of the fire risks and loads around your building perimeter? Even compost bins can be a risk and should be located way from windows and doors. If your building is publicly accessible, do you know if private areas are secure? Are your electrical and boilers rooms free from flammable materials and is storage kept clear from sources of ignition? If fire doors are being propped open, ensure staff are aware that this is illegal and where possible consider physical solutions such as hold open devices connected to the fire alarm system.

More information:

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Nick Hickman, service facilities manager, Surrey County Council