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Fire Safety, Planning for the Future
The current economic situation will have an effect on most people, either personally, professionally, or both. However, few of us will consider the effects of economics in terms of fire safety.
Cuts, cuts, cuts
Whilst this appears to be a tabloid headline, this is reality. Central Government and Local Authorities are likely to have less money available for public sector services, an important part of which, in relation to Fire Safety, is the Fire & Rescue Service. Much has been said about the protection of ‘frontline services’ and at this early stage it is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming months and years. What is important however, is to understand that our Fire & Rescue Services are likely to have to change the way they respond. Changes have been evident over recent years, for example, Fire Authorities not attending some monitored Automatic Fire Alarms (AFA) calls unless the call is ‘backed up’ with a phone call. Similarly, the Pre Determined Attendance (PDA) may have been altered, likely reduced, therefore any incident should be called in via the ‘999’ system with as many details as possible to ensure the emergency services can provide the correct response.
Once more, a potential tabloid headline, however, in the current climate, some consideration must be made. As seen in recent times, not all demonstrations, rallies etc are peaceful. Unfortunately, fire is sometimes used as a weapon against the authorities and/or certain establishments. Whilst this may not form part of our normal considerations, during these times, failure to give such topics any consideration could mean paying a high price. A number of factors will influence the perceived risk level, including the type of building, business function and location.
It would be fair to say that we are fortunate to currently enjoy an excellent level of cover from the Fire & Rescue Services and as it stands, in most instances they go above and beyond their statutory obligations and assist us in every possible way. However, with their current response levels potentially being reduced, it must be ensured that responsible persons are meeting all of their legal obligations. A key area in this respect is evacuation, particularly where there are persons that require assistance to evacuate. It would be fair to say that much reliance has been placed on Fire Service assistance and this has generally been available. In the future, this may not be the case and the responsible person must ensure adequate provision is made for evacuation.
Once more, a somewhat surprising heading on a fire safety article. Unemployment is a reality facing us in the current climate. There are a significant number of cases where persons who have had their employment terminated have chosen to set fires within the premises. This has been done on the day of termination as well as a less reactive response where arson has been committed some time after. Due to the potential access employees / ex-employees have this can be difficult to prevent, however, each building and case should be considered on its merit. Closed Circuit Television can be used as a security measure to act as a deterrent, alongside other practical security measures.
Fire Risk Assessment
The key to any changing climate is the fifth stage of the risk assessment process – Review. The changes highlighted above should fall into the constant review of the FRA which, in turn, may alter the residual risk level, requiring additional compensation features to reduce the risk to a tolerable level.
If you would like to know more – or would like to arrange an appointment with one of our senior fire safety advisers – simply call Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.