Guide

Fire safety and fire risk assessment

Fire safety equipment and evacuation plans

A fire on your business property must be detected quickly and a fire warning given so that people can escape safely.

Fire detection and warning system

You must have an appropriate fire-detection and warning system in place. Ensure it is in full working order by having it serviced regularly. Whatever fire system you have, it must be able to warn all people in the building in all circumstances. There are different types of fire alarm systems available.

You should consider which type of fire detector is suitable for your commercial property as part of your fire risk assessment. One type of detector could be suitable for one part of your business premises and another for the rest. Before installing a fire-detection system, you may wish to discuss your proposals with your local fire authority or a fire safety expert.

Fire evacuation: means of escape

The arrangements to evacuate your business premises form an important part of your fire emergency plan. You should:

  • Make sure the fire escape route is as short as possible.
  • Consider how many people are going to be using the fire escape route.
  • Consider the impact if one of the means of fire escape has been blocked.
  • Ensure there is a clear passageway to all fire escape routes - passageways should be one metre wide. Passageways that are more than 30 metres long, or 45 metres in offices and factories, should be subdivided into equal parts by fire doors.
  • Ensure fire escape routes are kept free of any obstructions, eg they are not used for storing stock.
  • Make arrangements for the evacuation of elderly or disabled people eg you may need to install evacuation chairs especially if the fire escape route includes stairs. You must also consider other less able-bodied people who may have access to the building, taking into account both physical and mental impairment. Fire safety law: the evacuation of disabled people from buildings (PDF, 2.8MB).
  • Inform and train all employees in how to escape the building. You should run regular fire drills so staff are familiar with what exactly to do if a fire breaks out. See fire drills and training.
  • Install an emergency lighting system to help guide people out of the building in the event of the usual lighting system failing.
  • Identify all fire escape routes with appropriate signage.
  • Ensure the place to which you are evacuating, known as the muster point, is safe and accessible to all.

Fire-fighting equipment

Your fire risk assessment may highlight that you should provide portable multi-purpose fire extinguishers so that people on your business premises can tackle a fire in its early stages. These fire extinguishers should be installed, tested and maintained in accordance with manufacturers' instructions. They will require someone who is appropriately trained or has the knowledge or experience, known as a 'competent person', to instruct staff how to use them. Get an idea of the types of fire extinguishers you may need for your business.

In smaller business property, you may only need one or two portable fire extinguishers. However, larger, more complex premises may require a number of portable extinguishers situated in suitable locations. It may be necessary to show the location of fire extinguishers with suitable signs.

Depending on your type of business, the size and complexity of your premises, and the outcome of your fire risk assessment, you may need other fire safety equipment.