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In last months article Alan Palmer an FSB member and Secretary of the UK Fire Association showed the importance for business owners to prepare and periodically review the Fire Risk Assessment.

Next comes the written Emergency Plan which in simple terms, is an extended version of the fire action notice - you do have these don’t you?  For instance, in the event of fire employees will need to raise the alarm; but how? They will need to leave the building; but where and how? Where should they assemble?  Who takes the role call? Who calls the emergency services and how?

A “Responsible Person” needs to be appointed to oversee fire safety in the premises. This will ultimately be the business owner, but many delegate their duties (but not their responsibilities) to a competent person often to a manager who will take care of the day to day fire safety management.  They need to focus on five key areas;
Fire prevention - this will involve giving all employees basic fire awareness training so that they are part of the solution and not the problem! Effective security, planned maintenance routines, hot work permit systems amongst other things all play an important part in fire prevention.  Cooking, arson, hot work and electrical faults are some of the biggest causes of fire.
Fire detection and alarm - in a small building word of mouth may be sufficient but where this is impractical or in high risk enterprises you will be required to install and maintain appropriate means of quickly warning occupants of fire. 
Fire containment - buildings are divided into ‘compartments’ to prevent a fire rapidly spreading.  Fire doors have a big part to play in this so need to be in good condition and always kept closed – not propped open with the fire extinguisher!
Fire suppression - all commercial premises are required to have and maintain an adequate number of appropriate fire extinguishers.  In high risk premises these are sometimes supplemented with hose reels and automatic gas and sprinkler systems.
Fire evacuation - based on the Emergency Plan will determine how occupants including disabled people are evacuated by the Fire Marshals. Means of escape routes and final exits need to be kept unobstructed, well lit inside and out (including during a power failure) and an evacuation drill run twice a year. Fire Marshals need to be trained and refreshed. Think about it, you are expecting these people to be the last to leave a potentially burning building!
Know your own limitations there are things that you cannot do for yourself like Fire Marshal training, fire equipment and systems installation/maintenance, etc. which have to be conducted by ‘competent’ persons. 
On this point always appoint ‘competent’ contractors as ultimately the owner is responsible in the eyes of the law for any dereliction in duty by its subcontractors as Shell International found in 2009. It was fined £300,000 with £45,000 in costs over deficiencies in fire safety at the Shell Centre in London.  Fire officers had found extensive breaches, including blocked escape routes and fire exits, defective fire doors and excessive fire loading all caused by contractors during extensive refurbishment, but responsibility ultimately lay with Shell as owners of the building. 

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