The LWF Blog

Fire Safety: Security vs ‘Escapability’ – Balancing competing factors – Pt Two – Risk Assessment

May 21, 2014 9:46 am

Last week’s blog on balancing the security of your building with its fire safety and evacuation provision concentrated in the main on potential damage to your property through criminal acts. This week, we look at how these two factors can gain some balance between those factors, through the use of combined Risk Assessments.

The idea of a combined Fire Risk Assessment and Security Risk Assessment is not an original one, however, it can be a useful tool when needing to preserve fire and life safety within your building while tightening security procedures.

A risk assessment aims to cover the following points:

  • Existing risks to the building and its occupants (an inaccessible fire door, for example)
  • Potential risks to the building and its occupants (entry by arsonist or thief)
  • Assess likelihood of potential risks being realised
  • Consider the protection already in place
  • Consider potential solutions and protection that could be added, and other methods of risk reduction.

Approaching the Risk Assessment with both fire safety and building security in mind will help to bring those two seemingly disparate elements together to form a cohesive plan. It may also pinpoint areas where neither consideration is being met and an alternative solution must be considered.

There are a wide range of security products available which may be suitable for your premises and which would not conflict with fire safety provision and evacuation/escape from the building in case of fire.

A good example of one of these measures would be magnetic door locks. These allow the effective closing off of areas of your building, accessible only by keypad or security card, with the advantage that the locks are all released when the fire alarm system is activated, allowing quick and easy egress from the premises.

Closed Circuit Television is another security option which can be off-putting to a potential intruder, but which would not cause an additional fire safety risk to staff and visitors within the building.

A combined security and fire risk assessment can be carried out by a specialist on your behalf, and they would recommend any changes or potential solutions that should be carried out as a part of the action plan resulting from the risk assessment. If you prefer to do the risk assessment yourself, but would need help deciding on the best solutions to the risks highlighted, security and fire safety engineers can advise and assist at that stage.

Although the majority of serious criminal acts against property occur outside of working hours, opportunistic thieves, arsonists and vandals have been known to strike during the day. For this reason, simple security measures such as ensuring your building has one main entrance which is manned and that each person wishing to gain entry has to provide ID and sign in to the visitors log, can help to eliminate this threat. Not all solutions to security and fire safety issues have to be hardware based. Procedural changes can have just a large an impact.

Next week’s blog will look in more detail at management procedures and how they can impact upon your building’s security and fire safety. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss this blog, or have questions about  your own premises and the associated risks, please contact Peter Gyere on 0208 668 8663.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy established in 1986, with experience in the development of fire engineered technology and the application of fire safety standards including fire engineered techniques.

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