Facilities management is a multi-faceted role. Each day is different with new challenges to face and responsibilities to manage. One of these is fire safety. And while it might sometimes feel like a chore, it’s extremely important that you don’t let things slide. The consequences of failing to update your fire risk assessment or servicing your alarm, for example, could be deadly.
In this blog, we’ll share everything you need to know about fire safety for facilities management companies. From choosing a fire alarm to educating yourself about smoke ventilation – we’ve got it all covered!
Getting the basics sorted
If you’re an experienced facilities manager, the idea of ‘getting the basics sorted’ might feel like teaching your grandmother how to knit! But you’d be surprised how many clients we work with who think there’s nothing they haven’t seen. Yet on closer analysis, they’ve missed the odd thing here and there. Those odd things can accumulate into significant things and become a serious concern for your employer. Remember, you have a legal duty to protect the inhabitants of the buildings you manage.
Are you the responsible person?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 introduced a new role in fire safety: the ‘responsible person’. This is often a facilities manager, but it may be the owner or employer. If you’re the responsible person, you must be clear on what the role entails. If you don’t take it seriously, don’t be shocked when you’re held accountable for poor fire safety management at some point down the line.
An overview of your role
So, what’s expected of the responsible person? Before we review in more detail, let’s have a quick look at your main duties. You must:
- Carry out a fire risk assessment (FRA)
- Install an ‘appropriate’ fire alarm
- Ensure any other equipment identified in the FRA is installed
- Put in place a service and maintenance schedule that complies with UK law
- Take responsibility for all maintenance work being carried out to an appropriate standard
- Keep accurate records and ensure all staff who need fire safety training receive it
Now, let’s look at these areas in more detail. Remember, if you have any questions, you can call us at any time to chat through your concerns.
What’s involved in a fire risk assessment?
The Regulatory Reform Order makes it clear that carrying out a FRA is one of the main roles of the responsible person. That doesn’t mean you can do it yourself, with a little help from Google (although it might seem tempting!). It must be conducted by a competent person (someone with appropriate experience or training).
The fire risk assessment will identify specific risks in your building and how to mitigate them, provide advice on evacuation procedures and identify groups of people who may not be able to evacuate quickly (e.g. disabled people, the elderly or young children).
Follow the advice set out in your FRA, and you’re already well on your way to fulfilling your duties as a responsible person. And remember, if you’re in charge of a building with five or more employees, the FRA must be formally documented.
How do I know if my fire alarm is ‘appropriate’?
There are several stages in the life cycle of the fire alarm. Initially, you’ll want to work with a reputable supplier who can advise you on fire alarm design. Once that’s taken care of, you must arrange for the installation and commission of the system. Thereafter, you must implement a regular maintenance schedule.
But, how do you know if it’s appropriate? Your FRA should explain what level of risk your building has and what kind of fire detection and alarm system you need to manage this risk. There are a plethora of alarms to choose from so we advise that you speak to the professionals first. They know what’s what and can quickly advise you on a system that’s right for you. Have a look at this blog to find out more about the technology currently available.
In terms of maintenance, the regulations aren’t crystal clear. They state that your fire alarm system must be ‘adequately maintained’. What does that mean? In the UK, it’s common practice to adhere to British Safety Standard 5389, which recommends maintenance checks at no less than six-monthly intervals. This is what we recommend to all our clients.
What other equipment might I need?
Fire alarms are a significant part of your fire safety arsenal but they do need back-up. Again, your fire risk assessment will elaborate on additional equipment, which might include:
- Fire doors
- Fire extinguishers
- Emergency lighting
- Ancillary equipment such as fire blankets and hose reels
As a facilities manager, we know that you’re the expert in your building and will understand how the building is used day-to-day. This puts you in an excellent position to work with a fire safety supplier to identify specific risks and hazards.
The importance of fire doors should never be underestimated. They are a physical barrier between you and fire. Put simply, they save lives. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you install good quality equipment with an appropriate fire rating. And if your building is busy, the correct signage on a door will ensure that people don’t misuse them. Unfortunately, we regularly see fire doors propped open with boxes or in a poor state of repair. Regular inspections will help mitigate these risks.
Smoke ventilation systems
This will form part of your fire safety strategy, and may be something you hadn’t previously considered. Smoke inhalation is the primary cause of death for people trapped indoors during a fire. As the responsible person, you’ll need to ensure you’ve thought of everything to prevent harm.
Smoke ventilation systems (automatic opening vents) work in one of two ways. They can be designed to integrate with everyday air ventilations systems. Smoke will naturally flow out of the building in the same way that air flows in. Or for buildings where smoke is likely to dissipate more slowly, you can install powered ventilation systems. As the name suggests, powered fans kick in to suck smoke out of compartments and expel it from the building. This simple measure can give occupants valuable time to evacuate a building and could easily save lives.
At the Silver Group, we’re a certified partner and installer of SE Controls, a leading international specialist in the design and delivery of smoke ventilation systems.
Work with the right fire safety supplier
For the best results, you’ll want to choose who you partner with carefully.
Experience counts for a lot, as do personal recommendations. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the fires safety industry is good at regulating itself through a system of accreditation.
Third-party accreditation from organisations like BAFE gives you confidence in your decision. They independently vet fire safety suppliers in a range of quality assurance areas. To find out more about our accreditations, what they mean and how we can help you plan your fire safety, get in touch today.