Practical fire safety guidance for existing non-residential premises

Guidance note on fire safety responsibilities for business owners of non-residential premises.

Chapter 4: Managing Fire Safety

79. A management commitment to fire safety is important to assist with achieving suitable fire safety standards in premises and in maintaining a staff culture of fire safety.

Fire Safety Policy

80. There should be a clearly defined fire safety policy which includes arrangements for planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of fire safety measures.

81. There should be one named individual with responsibility for the coordination of fire safety management within each premises. In multi-site organisations additionally there is a need to establish responsibility for fire safety within the organisation as a whole and the arrangements for monitoring the management of fire safety.

82. In multi-occupied premises there is a need for co-ordination between occupiers to account for the overall fire safety arrangements.

Emergency Fire Action Plan

83. An emergency fire action plan sets out the action that staff and other people in the premises should take in the event of a fire. It is a management responsibility to have in place an emergency fire action plan specific to the premises and to have in place arrangements to implement the plan.

84. In multi-occupied premises the emergency fire action plan will need to be coordinated between all occupiers.

85. For locations where the Fire and Rescue Service has a specific emergency response plan, then there should be compatibility between the premises' emergency fire action plan and the response plan.

86. The emergency fire action plan for a major open air event such as a music festival will normally be prepared after consultation with all dutyholders and agencies involved.

Table 5 - Emergency Fire Action Plan Checklist

  • how people will be warned if there is a fire;
  • what staff should do if they discover a fire;
  • what staff should do in the event of a fire or the fire alarm activating;
  • the arrangements for calling the Fire and Rescue Service;
  • the action to be taken by the person in charge when the fire alarm activates or a fire is discovered;
  • any arrangements for fighting fire by staff trained to use fire extinguishers;
  • any processes, machines or power supplies that need to be stopped or isolated;
  • the procedure to evacuate the premises, taking into account the personal evacuation needs of individuals;
  • procedures for checking whether the premises have been evacuated and where persons should assemble or be taken after they have left the premises;
  • procedures for meeting the Fire and Rescue Service and passing on details of the incident, whether all persons have evacuated and the presence of any dangers; and
  • contingency arrangements for the relocation or welfare of evacuees.

87. There should be an adequate number of trained persons responsible for supervising and implementing the emergency fire action plan. Emergency evacuation is a management responsibility and the plan should not rely on the attendance of the Fire and Rescue Service to work.

88. Stewarding and crowd control are vital components in the safe evacuation of the public from large places of assembly and entertainment.

89. The use of lifts needs to be considered. In general, lifts should not be used for evacuation, though some lifts may be designed for evacuation of disabled persons. And in some situations, particularly in large complexes, the fire safety measures provided may allow for the use of specific lifts for fire evacuation purposes. If fire-fighting lifts are to be used for evacuation, this should be agreed and co-ordinated with the Fire and Rescue Service who may, on arrival, need to take control of the lift for fire-fighting.

90. Where escalators are used for evacuation, there is the potential that persons could inadvertently be conveyed up (or down) into a fire situation. There needs to be consideration whether in event of fire alarm activation, an escalator can continue to operate along with staff supervision and control; or whether the escalator should stop on activation of the fire alarm. The use of escalators to facilitate evacuation is an established protocol in some transport premises.

91. Similarly, if travelators continue to run during a fire incident they could inadvertently convey passengers towards the fire. Therefore they should normally come to a halt on activation of a fire alarm.

92. In larger buildings or complexes, phased evacuation may be appropriate. This describes a situation where those people most at risk from a fire, usually those closest to where the alarm has originated, will be immediately evacuated, while others in the building are given an alert signal and will then evacuate when it becomes necessary or after a pre-determined timescale. The initial movement, depending on the layout and configuration of the premises, can be either horizontal or vertical. Where a phased evacuation strategy is in place, it may be appropriate for those disabled people who have an extended evacuation time to be alerted at the first stage to give them the maximum time to escape. Phased evacuation requires a fire-warning system capable of giving staged alarms, including an 'alert' and a different 'evacuate' signal.

93. With a staged alarm system, an initial staff alarm may be given to staff before the general alarm is given. This gives time for investigation purposes or to carry out pre-arranged actions. Normally staff alarms are restricted to signals from smoke detectors, an evacuation signal is given if a manual call point, heat detector or sprinkler head activates.

94. In enclosed shopping centres, the emergency fire action plan may involve immediate evacuation of the shop concerned where an alarm originates and allow for the activation to be investigated without full centre evacuation. After a pre-determined time delay, commonly up to four minutes, the evacuation of the whole centre would commence. If during the investigation period there is further alarm activation then the system would go to full evacuation. In the case of fire alarm activation anywhere other than in an individual shop, or on activation of sprinklers anywhere within the shopping centre, evacuation would commence immediately.

95. Staff should be aware of the emergency fire action plan through their training and instruction. Staff notices containing extracts of the emergency fire action plan should be permanently displayed in appropriate positions in the building. These notices should contain sufficient instructions for staff on their actions in the event of fire. There may also be a need for notices designed specifically for other occupants.

Transport Premises

96. Due to the significant disruption and associated risks that may be caused by a false alarm or a minor incident, the provision of a staff alarm may be appropriate for some transport premises.

97. Fire safety law does not specifically apply to means of transport but traffic issues need to be taken into account, such as their potential to be the origin of a fire, be involved in fire or for the consequences of their movement and passenger disembarkation in a fire or emergency situation.

98. In respect of rail management there are specific issues which need to be considered and pre-planned for, such as:

  • the procedure, should a fire occur while a train is in a sub-surface station, and whether a train should leave with passengers to reduce the number of persons using the station means of escape;
  • whether to prevent trains stopping at a sub-surface station in which there is a fire;
  • the need to consider that the movement of a train may cause undesirable air flows within tunnels, station and communicating areas;
  • in other stations, whether trains should be stopped to prevent arrival and discharge of passengers;
  • in a tunnel. the need to consider planning for de-training and whether passengers need to alight from the train and walk along at track level, whether passengers can use cross-passages to an adjacent tunnel, and whether passengers have to travel along the tunnel to a final exit or station; and
  • where relevant, arranging disconnection and earthing of the traction current.

99. Where major airport terminals have large compartments or smoke control zones, the evacuation of persons into adjacent zones may be appropriate for the following reasons:

  • to prevent people having to enter a hostile environment such as the airport apron;
  • to avoid disruption to the operation of the building;
  • to avoid the airside/landside barriers being breached;
  • to maintain the segregation of arriving and departing passengers; and
  • to assist in the evacuation of people with disabilities.

100. In all cases, communication with passengers is important. The plan should include the arrangements for informing passengers and travellers of what action they should take.

Fire Safety Information And Training

101. It is important that staff know what they have to do to safeguard themselves and others on the premises and to have an awareness of the importance of their actions including risk reduction, maintenance of fire safety measures and action if there is a fire.

102. All staff (including shift workers, stewards, cleaners, volunteers, temporary and agency staff) should be given information, instruction and training on the action to be taken in case of fire and the measures to be taken or observed on the premises.

103. Staff training should take place at a frequency which will ensure that staff remain familiar with procedures. The specific fire safety training needs of any young persons employed should be considered.

104. Fire safety training should be specific to the premises. Table 6 shows a staff training checklist. What is important is not simply the fact that staff training has taken place, but that staff have the knowledge and understanding of what they should do in the event of fire and also actions to prevent fire. Assurance to confirm staff understanding could be achieved by incorporating a post-training check.

Table 6 - Fire safety training checklist

  • instruction on the fire alarm control panel (if applicable);
  • the action to take on discovering a fire;
  • how to raise the alarm of fire;
  • the action to take upon hearing the fire alarm;
  • the arrangements for calling the Fire and Rescue Service;
  • information on risks;
  • the identity of people nominated with responsibilities for fire safety;
  • any special arrangements for serious and imminent danger to persons from fire;
  • the procedures for evacuating visitors and the public;
  • the measures in place to ensure a safe escape from the building and how they will operate;
  • the personal emergency egress plans for disabled persons;
  • the fire prevention and fire safety measures and procedures in the premises;
  • the location and, where appropriate, use of fire‑fighting equipment;
  • the risks from flammable materials used or stored on the premises;
  • the precautions to be taken to minimise and control the risks, with particular attention to their role in reducing and controlling fuel and ignition sources;
  • the identity of persons nominated to use fire extinguishers; and
  • the need for staff to report defects in fire safety measures.

105. The knowledge and understanding that employees require will be guided by the role and function the member of staff is expected to fulfil. Staff who have a supervisory role should receive additional training which will enable them to discharge their specific responsibility.

106. Those staff who may require to physically move persons during an evacuation, should receive manual handling training and should be familiar with the use of any evacuation aids or equipment provided.

107. A record should be kept of individual staff member training and should include the date and time, content, duration and trainer.

108. Where work is undertaken in the premises by outside contractors, then fire safety law specifically requires that information on risks and fire safety measures be notified to these workers and their employers. If any child (not over school age) is employed to work on the premises, information on risks and fire safety measures must be given to their parents.

109. Information may need to be issued to staff whenever there is a change in the risk from fire, where changes have been made to the emergency fire action plan or other fire safety measures, or where working practices or people's responsibilities have changed. This includes temporary changes such as when contractors' work is in progress.

Fire Drills

110. Staff may not follow appropriate action in an emergency if they have never experienced that action. Fire drills should be carried out to check that staff understand and are familiar with the operation of the emergency fire action plan, to evaluate its effectiveness and identify any weaknesses.

111. During fire drills, scenarios should be introduced to reflect what could occur in a fire and problems that staff may be faced with, such as an escape route unusable due to fire. During drills, a member of staff who is told of the supposed outbreak should operate the fire alarm and the staff should then rehearse the routine as fully as possible.

112. The frequency of drills for each building should reflect the level of risk and may therefore be different for different premises. Within each building the fire drill evacuation should be tailored to the needs of the premises and take into account what is achievable and what is realistic. When planning the timing of drills, the existence of occasional and shift workers should be considered.

113. The minimum frequency for an evacuation drill is once a year, but 6-monthly may be more appropriate for many premises. In schools there is a need for familiarity and discipline by children or pupils and fire drills should take place preferably once a term.

114. If the fire warning system is connected to a remote alarm receiving centre, the receiving centre should be informed or the link should be taken off-line (to prevent the Fire and Rescue Service being called) and then reinstated when the drill is terminated.

115. When carrying out a fire drill it may prove helpful to nominate observers to assess the appropriateness of actions and identify problems such as communication difficulties caused by sounders, the use of a frequently used route instead of the most appropriate escape route, or difficulties experienced by people with disabilities.

116. Where the drill involves evacuation, the drill should include the means of establishing and reporting that all persons have evacuated.

117. The results of the fire drill should be recorded, discussed with staff, and action should be taken to address any issues which have arisen.

118. Where there are infrequent or one-off major events such as a music festival, a fire drill should be rehearsed prior to the commencement of the event to ensure that all persons with responsibilities during any fire emergency, such as stewards, know what is expected of them.

119. In premises where the public have access, fire drills should involve a rehearsal for evacuation and may be scheduled when there are few members of the public in the premises.

120. In entertainment premises, whilst it may be impractical to expect fire drills to involve full audience evacuation, in some cases there may be an opportunity to practise all, or specific, aspects of a fire drill at the end of an event or performance when members of the public are leaving the premises. It may be appropriate to give advance notice to attendees that a fire drill will be undertaken at the end of the event or performance.

Maintenance of Fire Safety Measures

121. There should be regular checks, periodic servicing and maintenance of the physical fire safety measures. Any defects which occur should be put right as quickly as possible, though there may be a need for contingency plans when life safety systems such as fire-warning systems or sprinklers are defective.

122. The maintenance and testing of some systems and equipment will fall within the recommendations of a British Standard. Examples of testing and maintenance are given below. Some six monthly and annual tests may normally be carried out by a person with specialist knowledge, usually via a service contract. Experience in individual premises may show a need to vary the suggested frequencies, such as for premises which are unstaffed or used on an infrequent basis. The fault occurrence frequency in premises may suggest more frequent checks. In the case of periodic sporting events or open air concerts, it may be appropriate to carry out tests and checks prior to public access.

Escape routes and doors

  • Daily walk through to check escape routes are clear of obstructions and combustible materials, and that self-closing doors are not wedged open, and that out of hours security devices have been removed or disabled;
  • Weekly check of escape routes, safety signs and notices, exit securing mechanism; and door self-closing devices; and
  • Six monthly check that fire doors are in good working order: inspect doors for warping or distortion, fire-resisting glazed panels are in good condition and secure in their frame, and that intumescent strips and smoke seals are in good condition.

Portable fire fighting equipment

  • Monthly visual check of fire extinguishers and hose reels to ensure no obvious faults; and
  • Annual maintenance.

Fire warning system

  • Daily check of the control and indicating equipment to ensure the system is operational;
  • Weekly test by activating a manual call point (usually by inserting a test key). This checks that the control equipment is capable of receiving a signal and in turn, activating the sounders. A different call point is used for each successive weekly test. Call points can be numbered to assist with sequential testing. It is good practice to test the alarm at the same time each week, but also to ensure that shift workers are given the opportunity to hear the alarm. During the test, the alarm should not operate for too long so there is a distinction between a test and an unplanned activation. Check that the test causes the operation or disabling of other features such as electrically powered locks, the release of doors on hold-open devices, the operation of doors on swing free arms and automatic opening doors reverting to manual operation. Where the system is connected to an alarm receiving centre ( ARC), the ARC should be warned before carrying out the test, then confirmation requested after the test that the signal was received correctly; and
  • Six monthly servicing and preventive maintenance.

Emergency lighting

  • Monthly functional test of all emergency light fittings at a time when, following the test, the lighting will not be immediately required. Test methods vary; some systems have self-testing facilities that reduce routine checks to a minimum; and
  • Annual maintenance and full discharge test.

Suppression system

  • Six-monthly and annual check and routine.

Smoke control system supporting escape

  • Weekly test; and
  • Annual service.

Third Party Certification

123. Other than where work is exempt, any work to a building must comply with the building regulations irrespective of whether or not a building warrant is required. Building regulations require that materials, fittings and components used should be suitable for their purpose, correctly used or applied, and sufficiently durable.

124. Fire protection products should be fit for purpose and properly installed and maintained, while installation and maintenance contractors should be competent. Third-party certification, where a reputable certification body independently checks competencies and processes and that standards are being met, is one method of providing a reasonable assurance of quality of products and services, provided that the certification body itself is a competent evaluator. Accreditation by UKAS is an indication that a third-party certification body is a competent evaluator. Products and services that are not third-party approved by an accredited body are not necessarily less reliable, but accredited third-party certification can offer assurance. Information on schemes is available from trade associations.

Recording Information and Keeping Records

125. Paragraph 60 indicates those premises where there is a requirement to keep records in respect of fire safety. The records that should be kept are:

  • the significant findings from the fire safety risk assessment;
  • the resulting fire safety measures and action to be taken;
  • persons who are especially at risk; and
  • fire safety arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the fire safety measures.

126. In low risk premises and most small premises, it will be proportionate to keep no more than details of the significant findings from the risk assessment, any action taken as a result of the fire safety risk assessment, and a copy of the emergency fire action plan.

127. In other premises a full record should be kept. As part of the requirement to record fire safety arrangements, this should include a record of the results of maintenance and testing, This could be either electronic or paper based and retained for at least three years for possible audit by the enforcing authority.

128. Where premises have a complex layout or bespoke fire safety measures, a fire safety manual should be kept in addition to other records. This type of fire safety manual should contain technical specifications, detail of any fire safety engineered design, an explanation of the operation of different systems and specific information on testing and maintenance.


Email: Fire and Rescue Unit:

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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