Complete Fire Safety Management News
Where rooms open onto a 'dead-end' corridor (that is, offering only single direction of escape), or onto a corridor that serves sleeping accommodation, or where there is only one route out of the building, it will usually be necessary to make this a 'protected route'. This means ensuring that the walls, ceiling and floor all give at least 30 minutes fire resistance, that there are no breaches in the fire-resisting construction, and that the fire doors are kept closed, unless held open by an automatic system. It is important that protected routes are kept free of combustible materials and furnishings, or any heat-producing equipment like photocopiers and portable heaters. Notice boards and display stands are easily ignitable - if allowed, any loose papers should be protected by glass or lamination. In addition a clear exit width must be maintained throughout the escape route at all times, if necessary by marking the floor with yellow hatching. This width is generally defined as 1 metre minimum, or 1.2 metres where wheelchairs users may use the escape route.
The size and distribution of final exit doors must take into account the number of people occupying the premises, the activities carried out and whether there is a need to provide for wheelchair users. It is important that exits are clearly marked (with the possible exception of the main entrance) and kept clear of obstructions inside and out. Where there is a danger of obstruction occurring outside (eg by parked vehicles) the outer face of the door should be marked with a sign 'Fire Exit - Keep Clear'. Fire exits must be kept easily openable from within, while anyone is on the premises, and this should not involve the use of a removable key. Where a security device exists on such a door, it must be capable of being over-ridden in an emergency to allow egress without the use of a swipe card or security code.
In any workplace it is important that there are sufficient means by which the occupants can make a safe escape in the event of fire. It should be possible for those present to simply turn their back on the fire and escape by their own unaided efforts to a place of safety. In general terms, means of escape should comply wherever possible with the standards set down in the Building Regulations, or other guidance issued for the sort of activity carried on, but this may be impossible to achieve in an older building.
You should find copies of the Fire Action Notice strategically placed around the building, preferably adjacent to the fire alarm points (though possibly in other locations too, such as the staff notice board or, in Hotels, B&B's and Guest Houses, on the back of bedroom doors). The fire routine it describes should be simple and clear. It should say what to do if you hear the fire alarm sounding, or if you discover a fire. Read it from time to time to make sure you understand it, and that you agree with what you are asked to do. Sometimes Fire Action Notices are found to be hopelessly out of date because nobody bothered to check them when changes were made to the building or its surroundings.
Regular staff training and evacuation drills are a legal requirement for any business. This should usually be carried out every six months, though in some professions such as healthcare it is normal to train night staff every three months. Different levels of training will of course be required for staff with different levels of responsibility, and at least some staff should receive practical training in the use of fire fighting equipment. All training and drills should be recorded in detail, as should testing and maintenance of fire safety equipment and systems. This information should be kept carefully in a Fire Log Book, ideally stored with the Fire Risk Assessment, and be readily available for inspection by a local authority fire officer or other authorised person.