Fire Safety and Evacuation Planning Guide
Fire safety planning is an essential part of health and safety consideration for any business or premises. Having a defined plan in place can save lives in the event of a fire, which is why such documentation is generally mandated. In this article, we are going to look at what you need to think about when putting such a plan together.
Note: This article is intended as an overview and introduction to fire safety planning. If you are responsible for the fire safety plan for your building or organisation, then it is essential that you undertake the relevant training beforehand. Virtual College offers a Fire Safety course, which you can find more about by clicking here.
Fire Safety Responsibilities
According to the law, you are the ‘responsible person’ if you are the owner, landlord, occupier, employer, or other specified building manager. This means that you must adhere to the following responsibilities:
- Carry out a fire risk assessment and put a plan in place
- Inform all employees or other inhabitants of the details of risks and the fire safety plan
- Ensure the fire safety plan remains up-to-date and that all relevant persons receive the necessary training and updates
Fire Risk Assessment
Before you can put your safety plan together, you will need to carry out a fire risk assessment to determine how your plan will work. This should include the following steps:
Step 1: Identify any fire hazards that may be present in the building. This includes noting down things that may cause a fire to start, such as any naked flames, heating systems, or machinery. It also includes items that may serve as effective fuel for a fire, such as flammable liquids or waste paper/cardboard.
Step 2: Identify people that may be at risk should a fire occur. Everyone present in the building will be at risk to some degree, but some will be more at risk than others. For example, visitors might not be familiar with fire exits, and children or elderly people may also struggle to evacuate quickly. Finally, disabled people will need special consideration too.
Step 3: Where possible, remove or reduce the potential impact of any of the risks you have identified. This means taking precautions to remove potential fuel for fires, ensuring sources of heat are properly contained, and displaying signage to help at-risk people.
Step 4: Using the information you’ve gathered, you can now put a plan in place, which will be discussed in the next section.
Step 5: Perform a new fire risk assessment at regular intervals, updating your plan as necessary, and keeping members of staff and others fully updated and trained.
Fire Plan Considerations
Your fire plan should be as detailed as possible and readily available for anyone who wishes or needs to view it. Some of the major points that you need to think about and should be included are the following:
You need to have a set procedure in place for when a fire is discovered. The alarm should be raised as soon as possible, and the emergency services should be called. Decide if there is a designated person to do this, and if there are any additional tasks that need to be completed. Vulnerable people may need additional help, and in some circumstances equipment or power may need to be switched off if safe to do so.
Your fire evacuation plan must include details about all of the escape routes from the building, and how any person located in any part of the building can get out. A diagram is always preferable in this section, which is clear enough for anyone to read, and can be placed around the building. You may also need to add fire escape route signage to help.
Following on from the escape route, your plan must also designate an assembly point or assembly points for people leaving the building. This should be a safe and easily accessible place away from the building, in which the designated fire safety staff can take a register of everyone present. Car parks are often the best place for this.
Your fire safety plan should include all of the necessary training procedures for both designated fire safety staff, and other employees. This may range from mandated courses, to the basic fire safety information that should be conveyed to new employees.
Finally, your plan also needs to make reference to any safety equipment, such as extinguishers and blankets, that you have installed. Detail of where these can be found, when they should be used and who should use them.
Important: The above considerations are meant only as a guide - ensure you consult official documentation or attend training before putting a fire safety plan in place.