Fire safety guidance for existing premises with sleeping accommodation

Advice consolidating and superseding a number of existing fire safety guides.

Chapter 4: Managing Fire Safety

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

Fire Safety Policy

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

84. There should be one named individual with overall responsibility for the coordination of fire safety management within each premises. Additionally, in multi-site organisations 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.

85. In multi-occupied buildings there is a need for co-ordination between proprietors or occupiers to account for the overall fire safety arrangements.

Emergency Fire Action Plan

86. 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. Table 5 shows a checklist relevant to an emergency fire action plan.

Table 5 - Emergency Fire Action Plan Checklist

  • how people will be warned if there is a fire
  • what staff or occupants should do if they discover a fire
  • what staff or occupants 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 (if relevant) when the fire alarm activates or a fire is discovered
  • arrangements for fighting fire by staff trained to use fire extinguishers
  • any processes or power supplies that need to be stopped or isolated
  • the procedure to evacuate the premises, taking into account the personal evacuation needs of individual residents or occupants
  • procedures for checking whether the premises have been evacuated and where occupants 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 are accounted for and the presence of any dangers
  • contingency arrangements for the relocation or welfare of evacuees

87. Emergency evacuation is a management responsibility and the plan should not rely on the attendance of the Fire and Rescue Service to work. The creation of an evacuation plan for all occupants is a responsibility of the employer (where there are employees) or the persons with control of the premises such as proprietor, owner, landlord or agent, whether the premises are usually staffed or not.

88. Staff should be aware of the emergency fire action plan through their training and instruction.

89. In premises where staff are not usually present, arrangements should be in place to make occupants aware of these arrangements. Residents and others in premises which are not usually staffed should be in no doubt of the action to be taken in the event of fire and of the measures necessary to prevent an outbreak of fire.

90. Where provided, 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. 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.

91. Notices containing extracts of the emergency fire action plan should be permanently displayed in appropriate positions throughout the building. Residents and overnight guests should be made aware of the fire procedure by means of a written fire action plan within their bedroom. The provision of notices is covered in paragraph 258.

Fire Safety Information and Training

92. 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.

93. All staff (including shift workers, cleaners, volunteers, temporary 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.

94. A suitable staff training regime should be in place, tailored to the individual premises and to the staff who work in the premises, which will ensure that staff are suitably trained and know what they should do in the event of fire. The specific fire safety training needs of any young persons employed should be considered.

95. 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 operation of the fire alarm control panel, with particular attention to the information displayed and how to interpret this information
  • 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
  • the significant findings of the fire safety risk assessments
  • the measures that have been put in place to reduce the risk from fire
  • 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 alerting visitors including, where appropriate, directing them to exits
  • the measures in place to ensure a safe escape from the building and how they will operate
  • the personal evacuation needs unique to each resident
  • the evacuation procedures for everyone in the building to reach an assembly point at a safe place
  • the fire prevention and fire safety measures and procedures in the premises and where they impact on staff and others in the building
  • the location and use of fire‑fighting equipment
  • the location of the escape routes, especially those not in regular use
  • how to open all doors on escape routes, including the use of any emergency fastenings (and locks where appropriate)
  • the purpose of fire doors and the importance of keeping fire doors closed to prevent the spread of fire, heat and smoke
  • the importance of good housekeeping
  • 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 need for staff to report defects in fire safety measures

96. 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.

97. Those staff who may require to physically move or assist residents during an evacuation, should receive manual handling training on the method of achieving this and should be familiar with the use of any evacuation aids or equipment provided for this purpose.

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

99. 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.

100. 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.

101. Arrangements for the provision of information to occupiers who are not staff members, should also be devised and implemented as necessary. Information should be tailored to the needs of each category of occupier and take into account whether there is normally a management presence in the premises.

102. Residents or tenants and others in premises which are not usually staffed should be in no doubt of the action to be taken in the event of fire and of the measures necessary to prevent an outbreak of fire.

Fire Drills

103. The extent of fire drills will vary, depending on individual circumstances found in the range of premises covered by this guide. Drills should be tailored to suit the needs of different occupancies and should be aimed at ensuring that those persons with responsibilities know what is required of them.

104. Staff and permanent residents may not follow appropriate action in an emergency if they have never experienced that action. Fire drills should be carried out to check their understanding and familiarity with the operation of the emergency fire action plan, to evaluate its effectiveness and identify any weaknesses.

105. The frequency of drills for each building should reflect the level of risk and may therefore be different for different premises. Fire drills should take place no less frequent than twice a year or once a year for small premises. Experience in individual premises, especially premises which are not usually staffed, may show that there is a need to vary the suggested frequencies.

106. In small establishments, it may be impractical to carry out a full evacuation of premises. Nonetheless, it is essential that proprietors or staff are aware of their duties and carry out their own modified “fire drill” periodically to ensure that their role in a fire is tested in practice.

107. For small holiday home accommodation where staff are not usually present, a fire drill will not be necessary or practical.

108. Where premises have residents or tenants staying for longer periods, the residents or tenants should be made fully aware of emergency procedures which should be tested by a fire drill involving a full evacuation of the premises concerned.

109. During drills, the fire routine should be rehearsed as fully as possible. A member of staff who is told of the supposed outbreak should operate the fire alarm. In large premises, scenarios can be introduced to reflect what could occur in a fire, such as an escape route being unusable.

110. 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.

111. When carrying out a fire drill in large premises, it may prove helpful to nominate observers to assess the appropriateness of actions and identify problems such as communication difficulties, the use of a frequently used route instead of the most appropriate escape route or difficulties with door fastenings.

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

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

Maintenance of Fire Safety Measures

114. 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.

115. 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 as part of a service contract. Experience in individual premises may show a need to vary the suggested frequencies, such as for premises that are unstaffed or used on an infrequent basis.

Escape routes and doors

  • Daily walk through to check escape routes are clear of obstructions and combustible material. And that self-closing doors are not wedged open
  • Weekly check of escape routes, safety signs and notices, exit securing mechanism; and door self-closing devices
  • 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
  • Annual maintenance

Fire warning system

  • Daily check of the control and indicating equipment (where provided) 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
  • Six monthly servicing and preventive maintenance
  • Where a BS 5839: Part 6 Grade A or D fire alarm system has been installed, then test the system by activating the test facility

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
  • Annual maintenance and full discharge test

Suppression system

  • Six monthly (where appropriate) and annual check and routine

116. Residents or tenants in some premises without a management presence, such as HMOs may have some responsibilities as a result of their tenancy agreement or lease. It may be appropriate for residents/tenants to carry out some basic tests and checks, in the absence of the owner or landlord/managing agent, subject to them being proficient to do so. However, responsibilities are likely to be restricted to some daily and/or weekly tests and checks only. Residents and tenants should report any deficiencies in fire safety measures, such as inoperative smoke detectors, smoke alarms or broken door closers. Landlords/managing agents should have a system to resolve deficiencies identified by tenants or by their normal routine inspection programme.

Third Party Certification

117. 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 requires that materials, fittings, and components used should be suitable for their purpose, correctly used or applied, and sufficiently durable.

118. 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.

119. There are third-party certification schemes for emergency lighting, fire warning systems and fire fighting equipment which can add reassurance for design, installation and maintenance.

Recording Information and Keeping Records

120. Paragraph 67 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
  • fire safety arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the fire safety measures

121. In 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.

122. 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. These could be either electronic or paper based and retained for at least three years for possible audit by the enforcing authority.

123. For large premises, a fire safety manual for staff should be kept in addition to other records. This type of fire safety manual should contain technical specifications, detail of the fire safety measures, an explanation of the operation of different systems and specific information on testing and maintenance.


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