Given the current situation, we thought it important to provide fire safety guidance and advice for some specific buildings and sectors. During this time, we will be providing free telephone advice and support (where resources allow) to buildings where the life safety provisions, and fire safety management are critical to occupant life safety. I.e. most residential premises, including care homes, general needs flats, sheltered accommodation, HMO’s and supported living.
**Please do not contact us regarding home fire safety checks or advice, as we simply will not be able to cope with the volume of calls. Such enquiries should be directed to your local fire station or fire and rescue service.**
Given that in particular, residential buildings will be more densely occupied; if a fire risk assessment is due, where possible this should be carried out. All advice given is subject to an agreement by the FRA company/assessor and the responsible person and taking all precautions and Government COVID-19 advice into account. We have made the decision at this time to only conduct Type 1 FRAs, this will NOT involve knocking on or accessing any flats.
Occupants of flats, sheltered and supported, and HMO accommodation should be encouraged to do a weekly test of their smoke detectors, if they are able. If this is not possible and the occupants are particularly vulnerable, then consideration should be given to an appropriate person testing the alarm on their behalf.
Consider at this time occupants maybe clearing items from their flats and/or unable to remove rubbish, the common areas maybe used as storage areas. These should be checked where possible and a reporting and removal system put in place.
A general reminder about a bedtime routine of making sure all smoking materials are extinguished, electrical items switched off where possible and having a home fire escape plan.
Fire alarms: If these systems are common throughout the building, residents should be reminded to report any faults, including any faults indicated on the fire alarm panels where fitted.
Fire doors: It is unlikely that any periodic checks can be made at this time. Residents should be reminded of the importance of their flat entrance doors restricting fire and smoke into common areas and report any damage as soon as possible, this includes where a self-closer is defective or missing. It is appreciated at this time that some contractors doing such works have stopped all fire precautions work. Where this is the case, it should be stressed to residents the importance of closing their flat entrance doors when they exit their flat, particularly in a fire situation.
Where these are in place, a review should be made as to if the required number of staff to manage the evacuation is still in place. Also, the social distancing requirements will still need to be met where possible. If this is not possible, then other additional fire protection measures maybe required and your fire risk assessment should be reviewed as a priority.
Evacuation strategies: These may need to be reviewed where a strategy is reliant on staff intervention and the staff numbers have been reduced or removed altogether. Any strategy will need to consider the social distancing restrictions, and this will apply to any assembly points and roll calls. Persons that are in self-isolation may have limited or restricted mobility, depending on the severity of their condition, again a review should be made.
Ensure your list of key holders for emergencies are up to date.
Where schools are partly or fully occupied, consider if any revision to the fire evacuation plan is required? Are there enough fire marshals present? Do you have pupils and staff from other schools that may not be familiar with the escape routes and fire plan?
Ensure the fire alarm panel is healthy and showing no faults (a daily check) and the fire alarm is tested weekly (as should be the norm).
If your school is being left empty it is important to keep all the internal doors within the school closed, to contain any fire and smoke spread. Also do not leave large quantities of combustible items around the exterior or against the building itself, in order to minimise any arson threat.
If your school, is closed and empty for some time, on return ensure all the fire safety provisions are working and have been tested, fire alarm, emergency lighting, extinguishers and main electrical items appliances and services.
Consider the arrangements for your fire alarm monitoring, is this a 24/7 notification system or only during school hours? You will also need to be mindful of managing any false alarms. The fire service will be impacted by the COVID virous too, so we need to ensure that they are not called unnecessarily to false alarms.
A high number of commercial buildings will now be empty due to home working. However, where numbers have been reduced or there is lone working, consider any additional fire safety checks that need to be in place. Even if a building is partially occupied the fire safety provisions still need to be tested and in working order (legal requirement).
As with schools above, if your building is unoccupied for any length of time, you should ensure that all fire safety provisions are tested and working before reoccupation.
See above regarding keeping internal fire doors closed, arson threat, fire alarm monitoring and false alarms. Also consider having a keyholder information review, are all the details up to date?
If we can help with anything, please give us a call and we will do our best to help you.
It is also recommended that you visit your local fire service website to fully appraise yourselves of any advice they can provide.
Please stay safe!
The TFG Team