Fire Safety Management and Emergency Plan Guide
What does my business need to build an emergency plan?
Accidental fires are a relatively uncommon occurrence, but they can cripple small to medium-sized businesses, and many small businesses involved in a fire do not recover, closing within a few years of the event. Fires also put the lives of your staff at risk, and may expose you to costly lawsuits so it’s always worth learning about fire safety management, and putting together a sound emergency plan.
This article walks you through a three step process that’s designed to help you start building your own processes and protocols.
Step 1: Conduct a fire safety risk assessment
UK fire law Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 lays out how businesses can comply with the law. One of their requirements is for businesses to carry out risk assessments, as they recognise just how essential they are to fire safety.
All good safety management strategies start with a thorough risk assessment. These assessments are designed to help you identify:
- Current and pre-existing fire hazards (including ignition sources and fuel sources)
- The people who will be most at risk during a fire
- The effectiveness of pre-existing fire protection equipment
Your fire risk assessment will also help you to work out what preventative action you need to take, and expose any weaknesses in your pre-existing fire management strategy.
More importantly, a thorough fire safety risk assessment will allow you to analyse your existing emergency plans in some detail, which will help you to formulate a more robust strategy in the future.
Step 2: Mitigate or remove potential risks
Once you’ve performed a thorough fire risk assessment, you can start taking steps to mitigate any fire hazards. This process is highly dependent on the type of business you run, but the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) suggest that all businesses consider:
- Steps that will reduce the number of ignition sources and/or fuel sources present on the premises, which might mean updating furnishings, upgrading machinery or altering business processes
- Ways to separate ignition sources from flammable materials, which might mean isolating certain business processes or ensuring that all staff have proper fire safety training
If you’re using protective equipment like smoke alarms, fire extinguishers or emergency lighting, the CFAO also recommend that you organising regular, scheduled testing of all fire safety equipment, to ensure that you’re prepared in the event of a fire.
Step 3: Create a detailed emergency plan
Once you’ve performed a risk assessment and taken steps to reduce the chances of a fire breaking out, you will need to spend some time devising a robust emergency plan.
An emergency plan (sometimes called a fire evacuation emergency plan or FEEP) is normally a step-by-step outline of the actions that need to be taken in the event of a fire, including information on how to respond to alarms, how to evacuate the building and when to call emergency services. A good FEEP will also ensure that your staff know how to act in a fire.
If you’re putting together your own emergency plan, you should consider:
- Your strategy for evacuating staff, customers and contractors in the event of a fire (including details of emergency escape routes so that staff can familiarise themselves with key egress points and respond properly in the event of a fire)
- The action you want people to take on discovering a fire (eg. triggering alarms and beginning the evacuation process
- The action you want people to take when they hear the fire alarm
- How people are supposed to identify escape routes (eg. the presence of warning signs or safety notices)
- Who is responsible for calling the fire brigade, and when they should do so
- How to isolate and switch off power to the building, or power to key machines/areas
- Where you want people to gather during a fire (assembly places) and who you want to conduct a roll call
- Where people can find fire fighting or protection equipment
Your emergency plan should also contain details of your fire wardens/marshal, and your emergency service liaison so that people know who to contact in the event of a fire.
It’s also vital that staff receive proper training on fire safety.
If you’d like to learn more about creating your own emergency fire plan, or you feel that you would benefit from additional fire safety training, you might be interested in our fire safety training course for fire marshals and wardens, which you can find here.