Keep your business safe from fire

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

Due to the UK now following Government guidelines to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, it is possible that building owners, managers, and staff are making changes to how premises are used, staffed, and managed. This could, if not fully balanced, impact on fire safety.



For more information, please click on the links below:

Fire safety law and guidance documents for businesses.
 
 
 

Contact us

 
Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service has implemented its business continuity planning arrangements and many staff members are now working remotely.
 
We will still be receiving and responding to emails, so if you wish to raise a concern, or if you have a question for us, please email our Fire Safety Protection Team at firesafety1@northumberland.gov.uk
 
Please click on the blue drop-down boxes below for more information:
As changes are made to control the spread of COVID-19, you will also need to consider how this could impact upon fire risk assessments. Consider asking the following questions:
  • Risk reduction: Have you taken all reasonable measures to reduce the risk of fire?
  • Fire alarm systems: Is your fire alarm system in good working order?
  • Interim measures: Do all of your staff know and understand what your interim measures are (if you’ve had to implement them)?
  • New or emerging risk: Has risk changed?
  • Vulnerable people: Are Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) being conducted and reviewed to assess individual needs/changes in their vulnerability? Who is caring for the vulnerable, and can they still maintain this care during the current circumstances?
 
All staff should be familiar with your evacuation plan (including temporary and bank staff). Minimum staffing levels should be maintained in order to undertake the evacuation plan.
 
PLEASE NOTE: Any change of strategy due to the current coronavirus pandemic needs constant review and robust management.
You may wish to consider adopting a version of the following process to reduce disruption, maintain fire safety and minimise the need for external persons (in this case Firefighters) to enter your premises at a time when you may be ‘shielding’ residents from preventable exposure to potential COVID-19 transmission.
 
  • If the fire alarm activates, commence your normal emergency procedures.
  • Suitably trained staff should investigate the source of the alarm seeking to establish if it is a fire or a false alarm.
  • If, at any point during the investigation a fire is discovered or there is a smell of burning or smoke that cannot be accounted for, dial 999 and ask for the fire service immediately – stating that an evacuation is in progress.
  • If, following the investigation, you are certain that there is no fire, and no suspicion of a fire, then the emergency procedures can be cancelled. Under these circumstances, do not call the fire service.
  • The fire alarm system should be re-set by a competent member of staff and the fire alarm log book updated with a record of the event.
 
To prevent any unnecessary disruption, please ensure that any known problems causing false fire alarms are immediately corrected, so that there is a high degree of confidence that fire alarms that do occur are genuine.
It is important that fire alarm, emergency lighting and other fire safety systems (e.g. smoke control systems, where fitted) are maintained in good working condition at all times through the continuation of your normal testing regimes.
 
  • If your system/s are due maintenance by a qualified engineer, but you want to limit the number of visitors to your premises at this time, you may decide to delay the attendance of the engineer.
  • If you take this action you must record it as a significant finding in the fire risk assessment and highlight the importance of the regular tests you then undertake to ensure the system/s remain fully functional.
  • There may still be occasions when engineers/contractors have to attend your premises to maintain essential fire safety systems, and you should plan ahead for this eventuality within your Business Continuity arrangements.
     
If you are uncertain whether maintenance schedules can safely be extended for the system/s in your premises you should contact a qualified fire safety system engineer.
  • Buildings are fitted with self-closing fire doors to prevent smoke and fire from spreading from one compartment to another and to protect escape routes.
  • Emerging intelligence suggests some building users are wedging open self-closing fire doors as a COVID-19 control measure (intended to reduce the need to touch locks and door handles etc). Whilst this is understandable in the context of the coronavirus outbreak, it is essential that this hazard is balanced against the risk of uncontrolled spread of fire and smoke when a fire occurs.
  • If you have decided to wedge fire doors the practice must be fully considered in the fire risk assessment and suitable control measures put in place to ensure fire doors will be closed when needed (particularly in buildings providing sleeping accommodation or care for the vulnerable).
 
PLEASE NOTE: NFRS strongly advises against the practice of wedging fire doors and asks responsible persons to consider other control measures.
If your building is temporarily closed there are some simple measures to safeguard against both accidental and deliberate fires:
 
  • Isolate utilities and machinery that are not required – but ensure your security/fire alarms are still operative.
  • Close all fire doors .
  • Don’t store combustible materials against the building and consider other measures to prevent arson
  • Where possible ask your local community to help keep an eye on your premises.
Fire safety within dwellings is an extremely important issue, especially in mixed use premises and where unrelated occupiers, who live independently from one another, share common areas of the same building.
 
Key considerations should be:
  • Ensure that safety systems, including your fire alarm and smoke control systems are in good working order, are being tested appropriately and are maintained well.
  • Ensure that common areas and means of escape routes are clear from combustible items.
  • Ensure refuse compounds and other storage areas are not overflowing and are not stored immediately next to buildings – minimum distance of 6m should be maintained where possible.
  • Ensure that all occupiers are familiar with the building’s evacuation strategy.
  • Ensure that all fire safety features are maintained, i.e. fire doors are closed and not wedged open.
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 burdens.

It’s important that every business:

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

If you need any advice on how to keep your business safe from fire, then please contact the fire safety enforcement and risk team:
  • Telephone: 01670 621140
The Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety Order) 2005 applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales, including the common parts of blocks of flats, and houses in multiple occupation.

Please click on the blue drop-down boxes below for more information:
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
A responsible person must be nominated in order to carry out a fire plan. This fire plan should consist of a fire safety risk assessment, and a fire management plan.
Our role is to ensure the responsible person(s) for premises has carried out the duties required by the Regulatory Reform 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.
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 document useful:
In October 2015, new legislation was introduced regarding smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.  This new law requires 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. 

Please click here for more information on how to comply with this law.

Please also note that failure to comply with the regulations may result in a fine of up to £5,000.
 
Please click on the link below to watch a video presentation which provides further guidance: 

Fire safety advice for community buildings and village halls
The Regulatory Reform Order 2005 requires the responsible person to complete a fire safety risk assessment for their premises.

A fire safety risk assessment is the organisation of work activities in order to enable the identification of potential fire hazards. The process should decide who may 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.

For more information, please click on the blue drop-down box below:

Fire Safety Risk Assessment templates

These templates are intended as a guide only, and may not be suitable for all premises:

PLEASE NOTE: 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: Please note these are examples only and provided as a suggestion on how to complete and document your fire risk assessment.
 

Fire notices

Below are some examples of fire notices that could be placed at important locations within your premises:
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.

A fire safety audit is the examination of a premises, and any fire safety documents, to ensure that the premises are managed well with regards to fire safety.

If a visit is arranged, one of our fire safety inspectors may also speak to staff members to confirm their level of safety awareness.

The emphasis is for the responsible person to demonstrate they have met the duties required by the Regulatory Reform Order 2005.

Please click on the blue drop-down boxes below for more information:
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 that 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.
 
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.
PLEASE NOTE: 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.
 
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(s).

Please click here to view our enforcement statement.

You can find more information by clicking on the blue drop-down boxes below:

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service can issue notices, these are legal documents which must be adhered to. They place restrictions upon, or provide requirements upon the person for whom 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 Regulatory Reform Order 2005.

 

Enforcement notice

This is issued where the responsible person has failed to comply with the Regulatory Reform 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 enforcement register of notices serviced.

View the Environment and Safety Information Act 1988 here.

The consequences can be severe. If you do not comply with the legislation, there could be a risk of loss of life, injury and damage to property. In this instance, enforcement action may be taken. 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 that failure to meet the requirements of the Regulatory Reform Order 2005 may lead to prosecution.

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

PLEASE NOTE: Notices will be held in the register for a period of six years.

There is an appeals process for anybody who has received an alterations, enforcement, or prohibition notice.

This is outlined within the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and states that 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.
 
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.

When completing a licensing application, you will need to supply Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service with copies of:
  • Operating schedules
  • Plan of the premises
  • Fire Safety Risk Assessments
  • Licensing application
To protect the public and environment, there are laws ensuring petroleum. The law states that any product of crude petroleum with a flash point below 21°C is to be kept and dispensed safely. This includes petrol, benzene, pentane and any mixture containing these products.
  • If you are storing, or proposing to store petroleum for commercial or retail use, you will need a petroleum storage certificate. 
  • If you store petroleum within a domestic property, there are laws which you must follow. 
Please click here for more information about petroleum storage.
False alarms and Unwanted Fire Signals 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.

Please click on the blue drop-down boxes below for more information about Unwanted Fire Signals:
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. These systems help to save lives and property.

Although statistical information shows that 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.
 
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
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 stages.

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 any fire or smoke as part of your investigation, do not put yourself at risk. Leave the premises quickly and safely before dialling 999.
An "Unwanted Fire Signal" is classified as the attendance of a fire crew(s) to a fire call when there is actually no fire in progress or there is a false alarm.

To reduce the burden on fire service resources, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) has introduced a Cost Recovery Process, where commercial premises with a consistent false alarm problem will be subject to a charge to recover the cost to NFRS of attending the premises.

NFRS recognises the value of fire detection in protecting people from fire and reducing the number of fire deaths and injuries. The purpose of applying a Cost Recovery Process is to stimulate an improvement in the local management of automatic fire alarm systems.

The following documents provide further details about the NFRS cost recovery policy, process and appeals process: