Coronavirus Premises and Fire Safety
Manage Premises fire and safety arrangements
Occupied or Unoccupied?
Fire Safety Considerations for Occupied Premises
During the current Coronavirus pandemic, the fire authority may change the services that they deliver, to keep from spreading the virus and keeping their own personnel safe. This may mean a scaling back in the scope of commercial visits and limited capability to respond to emergencies.
As such if you are still carrying out business activities it is even more important that fire safety measures are still managed. This should include –
- Training of any new or temporary staff, updating existing staff on new procedures, reviewing/running fire drills, such as changes to shift patterns or key personnel in the event of furloughed staff
- Ensure your means of detecting and fighting fires are being maintained with all systems being tested regularly (bearing in mind those that may carry out normal day-to-day testing or inspection may be allocated to other tasks or have been furloughed) i.e. emergency lights, call points, sprinklers, extinguishers, etc
- Maintaining good levels of housekeeping, including arrangements for waste disposal, unlocking fire doors, routine fire checks and control of ignition sources
- Managing additional space if more materials are being kept on site
- Ensuring emergency plans (including rescue plans for any essential high-risk activities) are in place and people are aware of them
- For a school with key worker children and a different mix of teaching staff rotating frequently, it may be prudent to run through a fire drill a few times a week, so every person knows exactly what to do and the routine to follow
The above list is just a guide to help you on the right track during these unprecedented times.
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Linked Fire Alarms
As the response to the pandemic unfolds and changes, different fire authorities may change their approach to prioritising callouts. One approach we are aware of where systems are automatically linked to the fire brigade, is that they require actual confirmation that it is a real fire situation and will no longer be responding to what may turn out to be false alarms.
This scenario has issues if you’ve temporarily closed your premises – so arrangements may be needed with key holders / key holding companies.
Always check with your local fire authority on their arrangements during this pandemic so you can plan accordingly.
If your Premises is Temporarily Unoccupied
Fire Safety Considerations for Unoccupied Premises
If premises are unoccupied due to temporarily closing during the pandemic or infrequently visited, there is still a need to maintain a level of fire safety management. Some external factors may require greater effort than others.
Where there is a linked fire alarm system it will still need to be maintained and serviced. This will be even more important where the system is either shared with other businesses, residential accommodation or there is residential accommodation above the premises that is reliant on the fire alarm to warn them of fires below.
Some fire safety professionals are classified as key workers for these very reasons, so maintaining your fire alarm system maintenance should not suffer; but it is best to check with your current supplier and pre-plan for when servicing is due.
General Unoccupied Premises Safety Considerations
Key health and safety things to consider would be:
- ensure that all non-essential electrical /power/heat sources are isolated
- The Fire and Security alarms should remain operational
- Fire safety check are current and up to date (call points, emergency lights etc)
- All fire doors checked and closed
- All windows closed
- All waste removed
- Empty bins and waste, clear the fridges out, lock any external bins
- clean any welfare facilities
- do you need to turn off heating / leave on low frost setting
- are any statutory checks required during the shut period – gas safe checks, lift servicing – check with your industry for specifics on deferments, if they are even available (nothing on deferments has been formally released from the HSE at the time of writing)
- Some buildings insurances have clauses regarding unoccupied premises – some insurers have relaxed or extended the period, but check your own insurance cover
- ensure external roof access is secure from trespassers
- ensure CCTV monitoring is working if in place
- secure the premises – shut blinds, hide valuables etc
- Consider if external perimeter inspections will be required and how
- secure to shut any access gates from swinging freely
- have key holder redundancy
- make arrangements to manage legionella checks during or at reopening
Fire Safety Checks - Unoccupied Premises
Weekly Call Point Testing
Ongoing weekly call point checks would not be expected; these would form part of the reoccupation checks.
Monthly Emergency Lighting
Prior to temporarily closing a premises it would be advisable to ensure monthly emergency lighting checks are up to date because it would be important to ensure that sufficient Emergency lighting was working in case the Fire brigade does have to enter a premises to fight a fire.
Fire Alarm Servicing
This should continue as far as possible close to the anniversary service dates due to the potential increased arson and security risk. This would include satisfactory operation including smoke detection, heat detection, sprinklers and audible alarms.
It would be important to ensure that the keyholder system for alarm notifications is still operational. For those businesses that are automatically linked to the fire brigade via a call centre – the Fire Brigade may not be attending unless they have positive confirmation that it is not a false alarm activation. Always check with your local fire authority on their arrangements during this pandemic so you can plan accordingly.
Shared Fire Exits
If any premises have an adjacent premises with permission to use an alternative fire exit through your premises in case of an emergency (or vice-versa) then these fire exits still need to be made available if the adjacent premises are still in occupation.
This is not an exhaustive list of consideration but should go some way to helping you during this pandemic.
This is not an exhaustive list of consideration but should go some way to helping you during this pandemic. Should you need assistance please call the Safewell Team for advice on 01793 82951.
Call or message the Team with your questions
We are here to make health and safety accessible and easy for everyone, once you get in contact it will get much easier with Safewell helping you. Call on 01793 852951