In the United Kingdom, there are around 300 fatalities as a result of fires at home and in the workplace every year. Many of these deaths could be avoided by using the correct fire safety routines and equipment. While there are always going to be tragic accidents, it is our job as home and business owners to ensure that these are kept to an absolute minimum.
It can be intimidating to confront the possibility of a fire but facing this difficult situation will ensure that, in the event a blaze does break out, you and others in your property will be as safe as possible.
In this guide, we will be looking at the importance of fire safety in the home and within a business setting. We’ll also be giving you some simple yet incredibly effective tips for maximising your safety and improving your ability to escape unharmed should a fire break out.
Shocking UK Fire Statistics
It’s easy to assume that, in the UK, we have responsive and reliable emergency services and this is very much true. But the number of fires that break out every year often overwhelm our emergency responders. In 2020, according to government sources, there were an astonishing 153,278 fires attended by emergency services. More than 66,000 of these were what are known as primary fires which include fires that begin in a building or those that involve a death or serious injury.
But it doesn’t stop there. According to the same government report from 2020, as many as three-quarters of these primary fires occurred in residential properties such as flats, bungalows and houses. Many of us take the ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude, but this is a dangerous way of thinking.
In 2019/2020, there were 243 fire fatalities, and while this is a decrease from previous years, it is still a very high figure. What’s even more worrying is that there are a small handful of firefighter deaths among those who are on duty in the UK each year. Again, this is a minimal number and thankfully, in 2020, there were no fatalities among fire service staff, however, this is again, a number that we would like to see remaining at zero!
Why Is It Important To Protect Your Assets Against The Risk Of Fire?
It doesn’t take us to tell you that your home or business is among the most important assets you own. Not only are they of great financial importance, but there are also a lot of emotional and sentimental attachments to these properties which can make it incredibly difficult when fire damage occurs.
But the most important reason to protect your property from fire is the safety of yourself, your loved ones, employees, visitors and anyone else who may enter your home or business. As we have learned, there are hundreds of fire-related deaths each year in the UK, and yet many property owners still refuse to see the importance of fire protection.
There are some financial aspects related to protecting your business or home from fire, including the upfront installation costs of equipment as well as its maintenance. But these costs are minimal and are, without doubt, worth the small investment.
What’s more, if you are running a business, or perhaps if you are renting your residential property to a tenant, there are regulations and laws that you must abide by. If you do not, then you may face a penalty, which could be anything from a fine to a custodial sentence! As the owner, you have a legal responsibility to ensure fire safety which may include, but is not limited to, planning escape routes, installing appropriate equipment, performing risk assessment and ensuring relevant staff training.
General Fire Safety
Whether you are in the process of planning fire protection for your home or working in a commercial setting, there are many general fire safety practices that can be quickly and easily put into place.
Don’t block Escape Routes
Escape routes provide an easily accessible way out of the building in the event of a fire. While some properties have exterior fire doors, others may simply have a clear, signposted path out of the building through a regular exit.
In any case, it is vital that these escape routes are not obstructed in any way. Moreover, you should make sure that all residents, visitors, staff and other people entering the building are aware of these escape routes and can use them effectively.
Check Smoke Detectors Regularly
Your smoke detector is one of the first ways that you will be alerted to a fire. These devices have sensors that are activated when they detect smoke or harmful gases, at which point, an alarm will sound.
If a fire breaks out during the night, it is not uncommon for people in homes without smoke detectors to remain asleep which often results in them becoming one the hundreds of fire fatalities. The simple installation of a smoke detector will ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Many smoke detectors are left for years without being checked and this is an unsettlingly common error. Make it a part of your monthly routine to check your smoke detectors to ensure proper function. They typically have a test button that takes a second to press; if the device is working, the alarm will sound. It takes such a short amount of time but could save your life!
Keep Fire Doors Shut
Fire doors are designed to withstand a fire, to a certain extent and will increase the amount of time that a fire takes to spread through a building. If you have fire doors installed in your property, you should ensure that these are kept shut at all times. If they are not, and a fire begins, they will be rendered useless.
Identify Fire Hazards
Knowing where and how a fire might occur can give you the upper hand in trying to prevent them. Whether you are in a residential or commercial property, there are fire hazards all around you.
For example, a pair of kitchen curtains that might blow into the path of a gas hob in the kitchen should there be a breeze from the window. Flammable liquids being kept near a source of heat. Candles that are left unattended or people smoking inside the property. These are all things that may appear like everyday occurrences but could soon develop into something much more deadly.
Once you have identified hazards, no matter how obvious they may be, you can then remove them or reduce their likelihood of turning into a fire.
Use Equipment To Help Detect And Put Out Fires
Having the correct preventative and control equipment in your property can go a long way in ensuring that a fire doesn’t get out of hand. We will look at the types of fire safety equipment in a little more detail later in this guide but for now, you should keep in mind that things like detectors, fire blankets and extinguishers are all essential in any type of property.
Advice For Business Owners
Maintaining fire safety in a business setting can be more complex than doing the same in a residential property. This is because business premises are often larger and have a wider variety of people coming in and out of them, plus they may have other types of equipment in use, which may give rise to other fire-protection challenges. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to have additional measures in place.
Performing a risk assessment allows you to understand the potential risks of fire as well as situations or people that may be more vulnerable. Once you have completed your risk assessment, you will then be in a position to put appropriate measures in place to ensure that there is a limited chance of a fire occurring in the first instance, and if one does, you have taken the appropriate steps to avoid a risk to human safety.
This risk assessment may include several things but some of the most common factors include the following:
- Identifying sources of oxygen, fuel and ignition.
- Identifying other fire hazards.
- Removing fire hazards.
- Identifying people who may be at risk especially those who are particularly vulnerable.
- Assessing the need for fire safety equipment and where it should be located.
- Creating an emergency plan.
- Recording all findings.
After your initial assessment, you should schedule in regular reviews. Typically speaking, you should perform a review at least once every 12 months, although doing this on a bi-annual basis will ensure that everything is fully up to date and compliant with the law.
A Note About Vulnerable People
During your risk assessment, you will have examined the needs of vulnerable people who may be in your building. These could include children, seniors and people with disabilities. In many cases, these vulnerable people will need additional support evacuating the building whether this be through the assistance of trained staff or with accessible exits that make use of things like wheelchair ramps.
Not only is this essential in ensuring the safe evacuation of vulnerable people but the UK law states that all public buildings must have some form of wheelchair access. Building owners risk facing legal action if this is not in place.
Appoint Fire Marshals
In the event of a fire, things can go from calm to catastrophic in a very short amount of time. To avoid pandemonium, you need to make sure that there is a clear escape plan in place. But even if everyone knows this, it can be easy to fall into panic if there isn’t somebody leading the operation.
It is for this reason that appointing a fire marshal is an excellent idea. This person will be responsible for ensuring the safe evacuation of all patrons, in the event of a fire. The fire marshal will also be required to alert the emergency services and take action against smaller fires including using an extinguisher, where appropriate.
Your fire marshal will be trained in fire prevention and will be in charge of the day to day aspects of preventing a fire. It is a wise idea to appoint more than one fire marshal, if possible, to ensure that there is always a trained person on site.
Have An Emergency Plan
As we have discussed, people will quickly spiral into a panic when a fire occurs and it is vital to avoid this. When people panic, there is more of a likelihood that they will become injured because they become disoriented and make mistakes, or they may try to save items of importance, rather than focusing on escape.
This is why it is of the utmost importance to put a detailed yet easy to understand emergency plan that all occupants of the building can follow. This might include how to raise the alarm when a fire is discovered, who the fire marshal is and how to safely exit the building. Of course, there are other things you can include and each business will need to tailor the plan to its own needs.
Regularly Test Equipment
In much the same way that you would test your smoke detectors at home, you will need to extend this same practice to the business environment. You may also have things like fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems that should be tested for full functionality.
In the event that you find any of your equipment is not working as expected, it is essential that you arrange repairs or replacement as soon as possible.
When you performed your fire risk assessment, you should have made records of what was checked, what you discovered and what was done to prevent a fire or to rectify unacceptable situations. These records are essential for legal reasons as they are your proof that the correct procedures have been followed.
Moreover, these records give you something to go by in the future and will allow you to continue to monitor situations as well as allowing you to document your progress where fire safety is concerned. They will also be a guide for all people in the building, especially if you have more than one person in charge of fire safety. Everything is recorded so that there are no misunderstandings or crossed wires.
Running a business means a lot of time, money and effort in staff training. While you may think that you only need to train your staff in certain areas, you will need to ensure that everyone has relevant fire safety training.
One of the best ways to provide this training is to team up with a fire safety training company. There are many of these located around the UK that provides completely compliant fire safety training which is especially useful for those that will be appointed as a fire marshall.
That said, every member of staff within your business should be given training that familiarizes them with your fire policies, escape plans and use of your equipment.
Ensure Signs Are Correctly Displayed
Did you know that you are legally obliged to display the correct fire signage around your business premises? While many business owners are aware that they should ensure their property is safe, not all of them are aware of their obligation where signage is concerned.
One of the most important types of fire signage are those that point out exits and escape routes. But there are other types of signs that you must ensure are clearly displayed.
- Fire action notice signs detail what you should do if you discover a fire. These will include aspects such as the location of the nearest fire alarm and extinguisher, who to contact, leaving the building and details on what not to do; such as collecting personal belongings.
- Fire equipment signs should be displayed next to or near extinguishers and other equipment and provide details on how to use them.
- Fire assembly point signs are located at safe points where people should gather in the event of a fire.
- Fire door signs must be displayed on a fire door and alerts people to the fact that the door should be kept closed at all times.
What Equipment Can I Use To Help Prevent Or Put Out Fires?
The modern workplace or home is fortunate enough to have a wide range of fire safety equipment that could potentially save lives.
A fire alarm is usually activated manually when a person discovers a fire. These are often located around a commercial property and the user must break the glass panel before pressing the button to sound the alarm.
You might also use a smoke detector, which is common in domestic properties as well as commercial ones. These are fitted with a sensor that is activated when in contact with smoke. At this point, an alarm will sound alerting occupants to the fire.
Fire blankets are essential for stopping a small fire from becoming a huge blaze. They are made from highly flame-resistant materials and can be used to cover a small fire, putting it out before it grows out of control. These are important items to have in places like the kitchen where these low level fires often occur.
For slightly larger small fires, a fire extinguisher provides a viable way to put out the fire before it gets out of hand. Much like fire blankets, they are not designed to tackle serious fires, this should always be left to professional firefighters.
Fire extinguishers come in many forms and the details of the contents will be displayed on the casing. Certain substances are appropriate for extinguishing various types of fire and it is imperative that you only use extinguishers designed for the type of fire you are dealing with.
If a fire breaks out, a fire shutter can be used to block off part of the building and to contain the fire. These are known to provide you with as much as 30 minutes extra which can be enough time to safely evacuate everyone and have emergency responders on the scene.
Fire sprinkler systems can be fitted to commercial or residential properties and are triggered by excessive heat. When this happens, water sprinklers dispense water over the room, dousing the fire. The sprinklers must be connected to an outdoor water source for reliability.
The Benefits Of Hiring A Company To Monitor Your Property
Taking on the responsibility of fire safety is certainly a large one and it can feel intimidating. If you want the advantage of having a fire safe property without the headache of having to monitor alarm systems and perform risk assessments then hiring a company to do this for you will free up a significant amount of time. Not to mention that the worry associated with fire safety will largely be taken away.
Much more than this, a company will have the knowledge and experience to provide you with top-quality fire safety monitoring giving you greater peace of mind.
In the event of a fire, your monitoring company will be on the ball and you will receive an incredibly fast response time meaning that the emergency is dealt with much more quickly. But more importantly, the safety of your loved ones, employees and visitors will be greatly improved. You can rest assured that your property will be protected 24/7 with as little disruption to you as possible.
Moreover, having a monitored fire alarm system will lower your insurance costs and you will not be seen as such a liability by the insurance company.
Why Choose BAC Fire And Security To Monitor Your Property
BAC Fire and Security has lengthy experience and highly trained staff that will respond quickly and appropriately during an emergency. All of our systems are fully compliant and of the highest quality so you don’t need to worry about a thing.
But it isn’t only monitoring that you will benefit from. BAC provides annual maintenance on your system, unlimited phone support, emergency call outs and much more. Whether you want a system installed by us or require monitoring for an existing system, we offer a diverse range of services.
If all of that wasn’t enough, we can also be appointed as a key holder so that, in the event you cannot get to the property, one of our expert staff will take care of everything for you.
With more than 30 years of experience and an immaculate reputation, you can trust us to take care of your fire monitoring requirements.
If you would like to know more about how we can help you meet your Fire safety obligations, call or email our team of experts to arrange a free of charge Fire consultation.