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Fire Emergency Planning

Written by:Paula CosterBA (Hons), MSc. Associate Member CIEHF

Have you ever wondered how your organisation would cope in the event of an emergency such as a fire? Do you know who is responsible for fire safety in your workplace?

DON’T LEAVE IT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE – PLAN TODAY FOR A FIRE EMERGENCY

Who is responsible for fire safety in your workplace?

If you are an employer or business owner, you are most likely the person responsible for fire safety in your place of work. You must give serious consideration to your fire emergency planning before it is too late.

“… in a workplace the employer is the responsible person if the workplace is under the employer’s control.
HSE guidance

Where the premises are not under the employer’s control, then the “responsible person” is most likely the owner or landlord. See the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for more information.

What are the main duties of the person responsible for fire safety?

The person responsible for fire safety will need to properly manage the following:

  • A fire risk assessment of the premises which must be reviewed regularly
  • Telling staff or their representatives about any risks you’ve identified
  • Putting in place, and maintaining, appropriate fire safety measures
  • Planning for an emergency/evacuation
  • Staff information, fire safety instruction, induction and training

Fire risk assessment

The Fire Order requires the responsible person to carry out a “suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks on the premises …”  As a responsible person, you are required to carry this out. If you cannot, then arrange for a competent person to do one.

A fire risk assessment of your premises identifies any hazards in order that they are dealt with before any emergency arises. It will also identify anyone who is at risk and those who need their own personal evacuation plan.  Once the assessment is completed, an action plan will allow you to eliminate or reduce any risk. Plan when to review the assessment at regular intervals or when changes are made i.e. building alternations.

Fire evacuation planning

At the very least, a basic fire evacuation plan must show you have provided the following:

Fire alarms

Clear instructions about the sound of the alarm must be visible to anyone in the building.

Delegated person(s) for calling emergency services

There must be a clear understanding of who calls 999. Without a designated person, you risk being in the unthinkable position of no one calling 999.

Escape Routes

In premises where staff or visitors may be unfamiliar with the layout of the premises, use maps to enable people to quickly identify key escape routes. Any map used for this purpose must show clearly marked escape routes and emergency exits. Passageways to escape routes must be clear and easy to pass through.

Emergency exits (fire exits)

You must have a sufficient number of exits. Any designated emergency exit must not be obstructed at any time.  Everyone must know the location of the exits and they must be easy to navigate to.  All emergency exit doors and any doors leading to them must be unlocked at all times.

Emergency lighting

You will probably to provide emergency lighting. The legal requirement is that non-domestic buildings must be safe at all times, even if a power failure occurs. Therefore, nearly all business premises must have compliant, emergency lighting fitted.

Meeting place and roll call

All staff and visitors should be made aware of the designated meeting place should an evacuation take place. The nominated person must take a roll call once everyone has congregated to determine everyone is present.

Designated person(s) to liaise with emergency services

A nominated person is a liaison between your workforce and the emergency services who will need to be informed immediately if a person is missing.  Liaising may include traffic management of emergency vehicles. A fire risk assessment will identify any requirements needed here.

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans

Required for anyone who needs additional help to evacuate the building in an emergency.

Location of firefighting equipment

Siting the extinguishers in conspicuous positions so that they can easily be seen. You don’t want to draw people further into the building so site them on escape routes, near door and stairs Extinguisher s must also be placed in  hazardous areas i.e. cooking areas.

Staff training

Do all staff need fire training?

Yes. It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that their staff are adequately trained on what to do in the event of a fire.

Basic fire safety training

Everyone in your workforce needs to understand what actions to take in the case of an emergency.

A basic fire safety course will provide this instruction. It should cover raising the alarm, basic evacuation procedures, types of fires and use of extinguishers, and basic firefighting skills.

New staff induction should cover emergency plans and escape procedures. In addition, a fire drill should be carried out annually at least. This provides a good opportunity to ensure everyone knows the drill in an emergency situation.

Fire warden training

Your organisation must have designated fire wardens (fire marshals). Your fire risk assessment will identify how many you need on your premises. Numbers depend on the level of risk and on the number of people employed.

Staff appointed as fire wardens should attend fire warden training to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills needed to deal with an emergency.

Don’t learn the hard way. Make sure you plan for emergencies. Hopefully, you will never need to put these plans into action, but if you do, you will be very glad that they are in place.

Remember, preparation can save lives and your business.

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