Keep your business safe from fire

Keep your business safe from fire

Here you will find advice and guidance on how to keep your business safe from fire.

Keep your business safe from fire

Our principal aim is to make Northumberland a safer place by reducing the risks and socio-economic costs of fires and other dangers, without imposing unnecessary burden.

It’s important every business:

  • knows how to keep safe from fire
  • is informed about safety legislation
  • complies with fire safety legislation
  • completes a fire risk assessment

Our principal aim is to make Northumberland a safer place by:

  • ensuring business comply with fire safety legislation
  • providing advice and guidance for businesses
  • consulting with other enforcing authorities
If you need any advice on how to keep your business safe from fire, then please contact the fire safety enforcement and risk team:

Fire safety legislation

The Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety Order) applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales, including the common parts of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation.

Does the law apply to me?
The law applies to you if you are:
  • responsible for business premises
  • an employer or self-employed with business premises
  • responsible for part of a dwelling that is solely used for business purposes
  • a charity or voluntary organisation
  • a contractor with a degree of control over any premises
  • providing accommodation for paying guests
What is my role as part of this law?
If the law applies to your premises, then a responsible person must be nominated. This person must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and implement/maintain a fire management plan.
What is the fire & rescue service’s role as part of this law?
Our role is to ensure the responsible person for premises has carried out the duties required by the Fire Safety Order. To do this, we have the legal power to enter premises. Also, persons on the premises must give fire safety inspectors the facilities and assistance they may request.
Guidance documents - how to comply with the law
HM Government has produced a set of documents to inform you how to comply with fire safety law, how fire risk assessments should be carried out, and how to identify mandatory general fire precautions. In addition, you may find the following documents useful:
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
On the 1st October 2015 new legislation was introduced requiring Private Landlords to comply with fire safety measures such as fitting smoke alarms to every floor with a living space and carbon monoxide alarms in any rooms with solid fuel heating appliances.  For more information on how to comply please visit this website:

Please also note that failure to comply with the regulations may result in a fine of up to £5,000.

Fire safety risk assessment

The Regulatory Reform Order 2005 requires the responsible person to complete a fire safety risk assessment for their premises.

What is a fire safety risk assessment?
This is an organised appraisal of work activities and the workplace to enable potential fire hazards to be identified, and to decide who might be put at risk in the event of a fire.

As part of this process, you should evaluate risks arising from hazards identified and decide whether your existing precautions are adequate, or whether more needs to be done to ensure fire safety.
Fire safety risk assessment templates, log books and notices

Risk assessment templates
Below are templates provided to help the responsible person to prepare a fire risk assessment. These are intended as a guide only, and may not be suitable for all premises.

Please note that using these templates will not automatically guarantee that completed assessments will be suitable or sufficient. Log books
We have developed standard log books, which if used in conjunction with national guidance documents on fire risk assessment, will provide a useful guide on how to assess potential fire risks within your premises.

In short, they provide a summary of the fire risk assessment process and provide useful checklists and pro-formas for recording tests and drills. Please note these are examples only and provided as a suggestion on how to complete and document your fire risk assessment.

Fire notices - examples
Below are some examples of fire notices that could be placed at important locations within your premises:
Guidance on completing a fire safety risk assessment and selecting a fire risk assessor

Fire safety audits

A fire safety inspector may visit your premises to undertake a fire safety audit. These are usually prearranged and all inspectors will be in uniform and carrying identification.

What is a fire safety audit?
This is an examination of a premises and relevant documents to ascertain how the premises are managed with regards to fire safety. The fire safety inspector may also wish to talk to members of staff to confirm their level of fire safety awareness. The emphasis is for the responsible person to demonstrate they have met the duties required by the Fire Safety Order 2005.
What documents might a fire safety inspector request to see?
We may ask to see the following documents as evidence of compliance:
  • a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment
  • action plans related to any significant findings of the assessment
  • emergency plans for the premises
  • preventative and protective measures
  • fire drills and staff fire training records
  • fire safety maintenance checklist
  • staff information on fire safety and dangerous substances
  • evidence the following have been tested: fire detection and warning systems, emergency lightning, sprinklers, ventilation, freighting equipment, electrical wiring, portable appliance testing
The above list is not exhaustive and other, circumstantial evidence may be required.
What happens after the fire safety audit?
You will be told the outcome of the audit, which is summarised below:
  • Everything is satisfactory and there will be no further correspondence.
  • There are items to be addressed; the inspector will send a letter of non-compliance listing the items to be addressed.
  • There are items to be addressed promptly; the inspector will send a letter of non-compliance listing the items to be addressed with a date for completion attached.
  • There are items to be addressed urgently; the inspector will issue an enforcement notice with a schedule listing the items to be addressed, with a date for completion attached.
  • If items are not addressed by the completion date and follow up inspection, and the inspector feels the premises poses a risk, a prohibition notice will be issued with immediate effect.
We may also issue an alterations notice, requiring the responsible person to inform the fire authority of changes to the premises.

The responsible person has the right of appeal to a magistrates’ court within 21 days of the issuing of a notice.

Any enforcement action taken will be done so in full consultation with the responsible person.

Enforcement

If a business is not complying with fire safety legislation, we are duty bound to begin enforcement action. Any enforcement action will be completed in full consultation with the responsible person.

What enforcement actions may be taken?

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service can issue notices; legal documents that place either restrictions or requirements on the person who the notice has been issued. There are three types of notices we can issue:

Alterations notice
This requires the responsible person to notify the service of any proposed changes which may increase risk on the premises. They are issued when we consider the premises constitute a serious risk if changes are made. This does not mean the responsible person has failed to comply with the Fire Safety Order 2005.

Enforcement notice
This is issued where the responsible person has failed to comply with the Fire Safety Order 2005. It outlines the corrective measures the responsible person is legally obliged to complete within a set timescale, in order to comply with the law.

Prohibition notice
This is issued where the use of the premises may constitute an imminent risk of death or serious injury to the persons using them. This may be a restriction of use, or a prohibition of a specific use of all or part of the premises.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service is required by the Environment and Safety Information Act 1988 to maintain a public register of notices serviced.

What could happen if I do not comply with fire safety legislation?
The consequences can be severe. Apart from the potential for loss of life, injury or damage to property, enforcement action may be taken.

The penalties are set out in legislation and range from a fine to a custodial sentence and may, in extreme cases, include both. Please remember failure to meet the requirements of the Fire Safety Order 2005 may lead to prosecution.

If you are unsure of your responsibilities, have a query or need advice about fire safety, please contact us:
What is the public enforcement register?

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service is required by the Environment and Safety Information Act 1988 to maintain a public register of notices serviced. Our enforcement register contains details of the following:

  • alterations notices
  • enforcement notices
  • prohibition notices
Where can I view a copy of the enforcement register?
Notices served on and after 1 April 2009 can be viewed electronically via the Chief Fire Officers' Association website. Notices served prior will be maintained in hard copy at the fire and rescue service headquarters.

All notices may be inspected free of charge at any reasonable time by contacting the fire safety enforcement and risk team: Notices will be held in the register for a period of five years.
Where can I find out more about enforcement?
Is there an appeals process?
Yes, for persons who have been served an alterations, enforcement or prohibition notice, or a notice by the fire and rescue service, there is an appeals process. This is outlined within the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and states an appeal should be made to the magistrates’ court within 21 days of the day on which the notice was served.

There is also a specific appeals procedure if a notice potentially contains trade or manufacturing secrets. Those who are served notices have a right to give written notification to the fire and rescue service to state they think the entry may reveal a trade or manufacturing secret. This written notification must be made within 14 days of the notice being served.

Where such notification is received, the service will amend the notice and send a draft entry to the person affected. Should the person affected disagree with the proposed entry, they may, within 14 days appeal to the secretary of state. Notices successfully appealed under section 4 of the Environment and Safety Information Act 1988 will be clearly redacted to demonstrate compliance.

For further information, please refer to our service procedure on challenges, complaints and appeals procedures and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Licensing guidance

Licenced premises must comply with fire safety legislation in the same way as any other commercial property. We are also required to comment on the suitability of fire safety measures within licensed premises, and pass on the results of audits to Northumberland County Council licensing authority.

Documents you need to supply when completing a licensing application
You will need to supply Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service with copies of the following:
  • licensing application
  • operating schedule
  • plan of the premises
  • fire safety risk assessment
Find out more about licensing and the Licensing Act 2003
Petroleum storage certificates
To protect the public and environment, there are laws ensuring petroleum - any product of crude petroleum with a flash point below 21°C - is kept and dispensed safely. This includes petrol, benzene, pentane and any mixture containing these products.

False alarms

False alarms can cost lives. Free advice from the fire and rescue service, along with good fire alarm management can help to ensure you have an effective and trouble-free automatic fire detection and alarm system.

What are the common causes of false alarms?
False alarms occur for a number of reasons, many of which can be easily resolved. A fault with the alarm system is often not the main reason for activation. False alarms may be caused by:
  • the system being tested without informing the call centre
  • steam, aerosols and other fumes activating the detectors
  • humidity and temperature changes
  • changing the use of rooms or areas in the premises
  • a contractor working near a detector
  • incense and candles
  • accidental damage to a ‘break glass’
  • the build-up of dust on a detector
  • cooking fumes
If an automatic fire detection system is correctly maintained, it can significantly improve safety by detecting a fire and sounding the alarm at the early stages of a fire’s development. Essentially, these systems can help save lives and property.

Although statistical information shows 90% of installed automatic fire detection systems operate in an entirely satisfactory manner, there are still 10% that cause problems and can produce false alarms.
What are the impacts of false alarms?
False alarms have a major impact on the fire and rescue service because they:
  • divert essential services from real emergency incidents
  • cause unnecessary risk to crews and the public
  • cause disruption to training, arson reduction and community safety activities
  • cost money
The impacts of false alarms on the community include:
  • disruption of business
  • disruption of customer activities
  • causing complacency
  • costs to business
  • impact on environment due to unnecessary movements of fire appliances
  • a drain on public finances
How can you safely investigate the activation of an alarm?
Having an effective investigation procedure can limit disruption caused to business by a false alarm. Modern fire alarm systems are excellent at detecting a fire in the early ages.

By having a strategy in place to investigate the cause of activation, your staff can quickly identify false alarms, reset the system and return to work.

If you discover fire or smoke as part of your investigation, do not put yourself at risk. Leave the premises quickly and safely before dialling 999.
Further advice about reducing false alarms and unnecessary fire calls
For advice on how to reduce false alarms and unnecessary fire calls, please contact the fire safety enforcement and risk team: