Fire safety advice for businesses during Covid-19

With the current COVID19 situation we are all facing challenging times. Many businesses are being affected by the current situation but it is important to remain mindful of the potential impact of everyday risks to your premises.  

Watch Commander Gary Wood, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service seconded officer to the SBRC – has the following advice for businesses. 

Fire Risk Mitigation 

Review your FSRA – Fire Safety Risk Assessment as soon as practicable. Your premises FSRA may have been relevant to risk last month but factors such as the following could potentially be impacted and exacerbated by the current COVID19 situation:- 

  • Staff absences due to sick leave or self-isolation may have impacted upon any fire evacuation plan you have in place. Although most staff are now working from home remotely, those who cannot do so and who have to attend the workplace only when absolutely necessary, may still be resorting to your premises. Ensure your fire evacuation procedure is robust and fit for purpose for these staff members. For example, your appointed fire marshals may not be in the building when an automatic fire alarm occurs. 
  • Due to the impact of COVID19, review your testing and maintenance provision for your fire detection system, AFSS – Automatic Fire Suppression System and firefighting equipment and emergency escape lighting. The ability for your usual maintenance testing engineers to attend and complete this vital work may potentially be impacted upon by COVID19. 
  • Also take into consideration your electrical PAT testing and your EICR fixed mains installation testing. A high number of fires within commercial premises are caused by electrical faults. The ability for your usual maintenance testing engineers to attend and complete this vital work may potentially be impacted upon by COVID19.
  • If possible, ensure high volumes of stock within back of house areas are not allowed to build up inordinately to levels which could increase fire loading of combustible materials within the premises. Co-ordinate with your stock suppliers to discuss this with them. 
  • Some premises may take advantage of the lack of persons within to carry out maintenance activities or building works. If so, ensure these activities are fire risk assessed appropriately. You should consider prohibiting all ‘hot work’ on the premises. 

Protection of premises against fire risk 

There are some basic steps you can take to reduce fire risk within unoccupied or very low staffed premises, these include:

  • With many staff working remotely from home, premises may see some or all areas within become unoccupied for a considerable period of time. In which case you should endeavour to switch off and unplug from the mains electricity supply all non-critical electrical equipment. 
  • Ensure all fire and smoke control doors are fully closed throughout.
  • Consider that waste collection services may be disrupted and ensure there is no undue combustible waste material build up in external areas, even within secure areas. If there is a build up of combustible waste due to collections being disrupted, manage this appropriately storing such waste well away from the building to mitigate fire spread.
  • Consider security of your premises including external areas to guard against the potential of wilful fire raising and vandalism. Ensure all windows and access doors are closed including those located on above ground floors. 
  • Consider that due to staff availability that any relief staff who may be newly appointed or assigned to look after the premises are familiar with the close down and fire procedures, know how to call the fire and rescue service and what information should be passed to the control room operator in the event of a fire situation occurring. 

Additional considerations 

At this time to reduce any undue burdens on the emergency services, consider refreshing your staff’s knowledge and understanding of fire safety training and also in the area of reducing false alarms.

Reducing false alarms can considerably lower the burden on the fire service attending premises unnecessarily. The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service currently run two initiatives to reduce false alarms – ‘TAKE 5’ and ‘BE AWARE’, further information on both can be found here.

Staff working remotely from home 

For those working from home, please be aware of the following measures to keep safe:

  • Be aware of fire safety arrangements within the home and ensure the family are all aware of these. Check your smoke detection regularly to ensure it operates correctly. 
  • Carry out a ‘bed time routine’ - Close doors, unplug electrical appliances, televisions and chargers, check heaters are off and candles and cigarettes are properly extinguished. 
  • Due to the amount of staff now working from home, streets in urban areas composed of houses may have a higher than normal amount of vehicles parked within. Please park responsibly and ensure you leave enough space on the road way for emergency service vehicles to pass through. 


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