With property management companies providing services for buildings of all sizes, you’d be forgiven for expecting fire safety requirements to differ. However, from small HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy) through to large multi-tenanted office buildings, the fire safety measures required are essentially the same. Every building, whatever the size, will require a fire risk assessment and a fire safety maintenance programme. Where the differences will occur is in the actual fire management procedures. It’s the knowledge and effective deployment of these procedures that can be the essential factor in the outcome of an emergency.
Fire Evacuation Procedures
Having a comprehensive fire evacuation procedure is paramount in any building. However, it’s often the case that a property management company and their employees are aware of the policy and procedure. The other users of the building often do not. Unfortunately, this can lead to confusion and unnecessary delays in the evacuation of a building. It is vitally important that all users of a building know what the fire procedure is, know where the nearest exit route is, and where the muster point is.
The policy and procedure should also form part of the onboarding process for new employees, and for new businesses taking up residency in a multi-occupancy site.
Fire Evacuation Drills
Ensuring regular fire evacuation drills take place will increase the likelihood of a successful evacuation should a fire take hold. They should preferably be unplanned, so you can accurately gauge the speed of people’s reactions. It’s commonplace to hold two fire evacuation drills every year, although this can vary depending on the fire risk assessment for your building. If there are shift workers on-site, this will also need considering.
For HMOs, tower flats and office blocks with a stay put policy, a fire evacuation drill will prove interesting. In the light of the Grenfell tragedy, many will not stay put. Having alternative measures in place to ensure a smooth, incident free evacuation may be necessary.
Roles and Responsibilities
Often in multi-tenanted buildings, there is a lack of clarity and understanding of who is responsible for fire safety. A property management company can often be responsible just for the fire safety in communal areas. However, it is joint responsibility of both the management company and tenants to ensure the fire safety of the building as a whole.
The property management company should have a fire risk assessment completed for the communal areas, and ensure any non-conformances are rectified immediately. Similarly, any independent companies in a managed office block or site needs a fire risk assessment for their designated areas.
Once these fire risk assessments have been completed, the results should be shared. Any risks identified need to be addressed with all responsible persons.
The most common role that is overlooked in this scenario is who calls the fire brigade in an emergency. Many think others will have done it, but it needs delegating specifically in the evacuation plan.
Fire Safety Equipment Maintenance
It’s imperative that the fire safety systems on-site are subjected to a regular maintenance schedule. This ensures the integrity of the systems is maintained. Weekly testing of the fire alarm system needs to be carried out and the results recorded. A tenant, caretaker or other suitably trained person can complete this. In addition to this, the fire alarm system, fire extinguishers, dry and wet risers and emergency lighting should all be included in a maintenance schedule. To ensure compliance with fire safety legislation, the maintenance programme needs to be completed by a third party certified company.
BusinessWatch are BAFE certified, ensuring your fire safety systems are installed and maintained to strict industry standards. Contact us today on 0330 094 7404 to discuss your fire safety system maintenance. Alternatively complete your details and we’ll be in touch shortly.