South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services (SYFRS) have attended 3,457 call outs to commercial buildings (offices, schools, workshops etc.) over the past three years. They estimate that 97% of these visits turned out to be false alarms. That’s amounted to a colossal waste of their time, over 1000 hours, which could have been more properly spent elsewhere.
Having reviewed the above, SYFRS have announced that from the 6th January 2020, they will no longer automatically attend fire alarms in commercial buildings. They will only attend when a blaze has been confirmed. This brings SYFRS into line with other fire and rescue services throughout the country and also reflects the view of the National Fire Chiefs Council. The only exception to this is that alarms in high risk buildings with sleeping risks, such as hospitals, universities, hotels and high rise flats, will still be responded to without confirmation of a blaze.
So what do you need to do to minimise the risk of a fire in your premises? We would recommend that you work your way down this list to start with:
- Complete a fire risk assessment of your premises – this is a legal requirement for all commercial premises under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This will identify hazards which require control within your workplace. To make you aware, the definition of commercial premises also extends to houses that you may have rented out if they are classed as Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs). We would strongly recommend that this be undertaken by a trained and competent person.
- Maintain housekeeping standards in your workplace – make sure that fire escape routes are kept clear. Also make sure that if you separate combustible materials from sources of ignition. Sounds obvious, right? You wouldn’t believe the number of cardboard boxes that we see in electrical cupboards!
- Make sure that your staff know the emergency procedure – it is a legal requirement to undertake an annual fire drill. Even if there’s only two of you! We recommend that you do this every six months as a minimum. It’s 5 minutes out of your day, and the more familiar your staff are with the emergency routes and procedures, the better they will be.
- Check and maintain fire alarm systems – if they are maintained properly, then they will give you warning of fire situations. The less false alarms you have, the more likely people are to respond.
- Check and maintain fire extinguishers – fire extinguishers should be serviced annually but you should still do regular checks to ensure that they are where they should be. Do you know what the most common use of a fire extinguisher is? A door stop! If it’s not where you need it, what are you going to do?