SFRS plea to businesses to ensure social distancing does not impact fire safety

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is urging business owners and Dutyholders to ensure that social distancing and protection measures do not impact on fire safety as lockdown restrictions begin to ease. 

The national service is encouraging those who operate public premises to check that buildings and those who work within them or who use them remain protected from fire risk. 

For example, measures to keep people safe from the spread of COVID-19 - such as plastic screens to support social distancing - could hamper fire safety measures including sprinklers or smoke detectors. 

And while it is important to observe the two-metre social distancing rule wherever possible during the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that people always exit a building as quickly and safely as possible, using all available means of escape in the event of a fire. 

Any external queuing systems in place outside of businesses should also be designed to ensure they do not hamper the ability of emergency services to access a building when required to do so - quickly. 

Holiday rental businesses and those who operate a holiday rental business should also take all available steps to make their premises safe from fire. 

A thorough fire safety risk assessment should be carried out as soon as possible by all businesses and Dutyholders, says Alasdair Perry, the SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer for Prevention and Protection. 

"We know that businesses owners and Dutyholders will naturally be both excited and anxious about reopening for the first time in several weeks’ time,” he commented. 

"During the last few months many of these workplaces will have understandably and correctly taken measures to protect staff from the spread of COVID-19. 

"We are therefore urging all Dutyholders to consider if these measures, including the installation of plastic screening, could have any impact on their fire detection or fire safety measures. 

"For example, it is possible that screening installation, along with any increased loading or materials in the premises, may obstruct automatic fire detection apparatus such as smoke alarms. 

"We would also ask businesses to please manage any external queuing systems safely and effectively to ensure safe access for emergency service vehicles.  

"These are important factors to consider and that is why we are urging people to review fire safety measures to ensure staff, communities and assets remain safe from fire. 

DACO Perry continued: "As a country we are continuing to socially distance ourselves and maintain a two-metre distance from those outside our households. 

"But it's vital to remind people that in the event of an alarm and fire evacuation that the most important thing to do is to exit the building safely, quickly and by the nearest available exit. 

"These are challenging times for us all, but it's vital to consider the risk and devastating effects fire can have at all times. 

"We are here to help keep you safe, but you can help us by taking steps to ensure the risk of fire within your business or premises is reduced and you comply with fire law." 

The SFRS is also keen to reach out to those who operate holiday rentals or receive paying guests where demand may significantly increase due to restrictions on foreign travel.  

DACO Perry explained: "With the threat of COVID-19 ongoing, there's a strong possibility more people will choose to holiday at home this year. 

"We're therefore asking those who rent out properties to ensure their fire safety risk assessment is up to date, that those visiting are kept safe and aware of what fire safety measures are in place and they know what to do in the event of a fire. 

"These have been trying times for the whole country, but we cannot become complacent and must continue to work together to drive down the risk of fire across Scotland." 

For more advice on fire risk assessment or to speak with an officer, contact the SFRS via https://www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/for-businesses/contact-your-local-fire-safety-enforcement-office.aspx  

Further guidance is available from the Fire Industry Associationhttps://www.fia.uk.com/about-us.html  

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