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Fire Safety

Part 1: Fire safety advice

The fire safety officer is required to ensure that the fire safety management arrangements detailed in the Fire Management Folder are monitored on a regular basis to ensure that they remain current and effective. Any necessary actions or repairs must be noted in the relevant section of the Fire Management 

Folder and all relevant persons informed.

All Fire Risk Assessments will be subject to regular review. The review period should not exceed 2 years or when changes within the premises occur.

Guides in the series:

Offices and Shops, Factories and Warehouses, Sleeping Accommodation, Residential Care Premises, Educational Premises, Small and Medium Places of Assembly, Large Places of Assembly, Theatres, Cinemas and Similar Premises, Open Air Events and Venues, Healthcare Premises, Transport Premises and Facilities, Animal Premises and Stables, Means of Escape for Disabled People

These guidance documents are available to view and download free on the NIFRS website from fireSAFE, in the Guidance Documents section.

The fire safety records included in this book, a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment and well thought out emergency plans will lead to a good fire safety culture and a quality safety management structure. Record keeping will provide valuable resources to assist you in two areas:

Effectively managing the fire strategy for your premises.

Providing evidence to enforcing authorities or the courts that you have done everything that could be reasonably expected to ensure safety within the premises and to comply with the law.

Part 2: Fire precautions

Section 1 Guidance on Fire Risks and Preventative Measures

Further guidance can be found in Part 2 of the appropriate premises guides under the above heading.

BUSINESS PREMISES: Common causes of fire

Electricity – Is a source of heat and a frequent cause of fire in buildings. Some contributing factors are the misuse of electrical equipment and poor maintenance. With the increasing number of electrical appliances we use, consideration of the need for additional sockets or upgrading of electrical circuits may be necessary, an annual inspection of the electrical system by a competent electrician will help to identify any areas of concern. Inspection of electrical equipment should reveal whether:

  • It is installed and maintained correctly.
  • Sockets and extension cables are overloaded.
  • The correct fuses are used.

Ensuring electrical equipment is switched off and unplugged when not in use will assist to reduce the risk of fire occurring.

Rubbish – When left to accumulate in the workplace, could not only increase the chance of fire occurring, it may assist a fire to spread throughout the premises a lot quicker. Adopt a good housekeeping régime to ensure rubbish is taken out of the premises as quickly and as often as possible and contained within lidded metal bins.

Ensure external rubbish bins are sited away from buildings reducing the risk of a fire spreading to the building and ensure that they do not obstruct either your escape routes or those of neighbouring premises.

  • Smoking – Careless disposal of smoking materials is a major cause of fire.
  • Implementation of a smoking policy could ensure:
  • People only smoke in designated areas.
  • Provision of non-combustible and substantial ashtrays.
  • Daily disposal of the content of ashtrays into a non-combustible waste receptacle ensuring that all debris is fully extinguished first.
  • End of day checks or checks before leaving rooms which will be unoccupied for long periods (people may be sleeping) are undertaken.

Heaters – If placed near furniture or combustible materials can start a fire. Ensure that they are positioned carefully and used appropriately. Keep boiler houses clear of accumulations of combustible materials and avoid using them as an extra storeroom. If you have open fires in your premises, never use flammable liquids to light them, always have them securely guarded and sweep chimneys twice per year or more if wood is burned.

Dangerous Goods – Most correction, duplicator fluids and most aerosols are flammable and aerosols can explode if they become too hot and must be kept well away from any heat sources. The careful use and storage of any flammable liquid or gas is essential to maintain a safe working environment.

Deliberate Fire Setting – Help protect your premises by securing any combustible waste in an appropriate receptacle and locking away any flammable liquids or gases.

Considering the potential problem of deliberate fire setting is an important aspect and is one that should not be underestimated as it is not only a major cause of fire but frequently a problem when the premises are unoccupied. End of day checks to ensure all windows and doors are secure can help to manage the risk of arson.

Further information on reducing the risk of deliberate fire setting can be found on the website www​.arson​pre​ven​tion​bu​reau​.org​.uk.

Section 2 Guidance on Fire Detection and Warning Systems

Further guidance can be found in Part 2 of the appropriate premises guides under the above heading.

Also British Standard 5839:1.

The fire alarm system is required to be monitored and tested by a nominated responsible person. The responsible person should have sufficient information and training in order to carry out all aspects of routine testing and supervision of the system.

Regular tests are vital to ensure that there has not been any major failure of the entire or a significant part of the system.

It is essential that if the alarm is linked to an alarm signal receiving centre, it is contacted immediately before, and immediately after, any tests to ensure that unnecessary attendance of the fire and rescue service is avoided and that an assessment of whether fire alarm signals are correctly received at the alarm receiving centre.

  • Inspect the alarm panel daily for normal operation of the system (this does not have to be recorded). If any defects are found then record in the log book and report it to a responsible person. It should be ensured that any faults recorded have received appropriate attention.
  • Every week a different manual call point should be operated (same time each week) during normal working hours. In premises where employees work out of these hours, an additional test should be carried out at least once a month to ensure familiarity with the sound of the fire alarm. There is no maximum limit for the period of time it takes to test the system in rotation.
  • Automatic door releases that are connected to the fire alarm system should be tested weekly in conjunction with the fire alarm test, checking that all doors are being released and close fully onto the door rebates.
  • If emergency generators are used as standby power, simulation of power failure to activate generators on load for at least one hour each month will be necessary. Where vented batteries are used as standby power, carry out a visual inspection of batteries and connections including electrolyte level.
  • Quarterly and annual inspections and tests can only be undertaken by a competent person with the relevant technical knowledge and training. This may be done by the installer, a qualified in-house maintenance person or some other competent person.

Regular visual inspection of manual call points and fire detectors is required to ensure that:

  • Manual call points are unobstructed and conspicuous.
  • A clear space of 500mm is maintained below each automatic fire detector and is not impeded by any other means, ie, accumulation of dust in detector head or layers of paint.

False alarms should be recorded and positive action taken to manage the problem.

Categories of False Alarms

  • Unwanted alarms.
  • Equipment false alarms.
  • False alarms with good intent.
  • Malicious false alarms.

Section 3 Guidance on Firefighting Equipment

Further guidance can be found in Part 2 of the appropriate premises guides under the above heading.

Also British Standard 5309:3 and BS EN3.

All testing of equipment should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Portable Fire Extinguishers

Monthly Inspection

It is recommended that a regular visual inspection of all extinguishers is carried out by the responsible person or other nominated competent person not less than monthly.

Inspection checks should include:

  • Are extinguishers located in the designated place?
  • Are extinguishers visible and unobstructed?
  • Are operating instructions legible and do they face outwards?
  • That extinguishers have not been used and have no obvious damage.
  • That pressure gauges/​indicators are reading within operational and safety limits.
  • That the seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing.

Corrective action should be arranged where necessary.

Annual Service and Inspection by a Competent Person

The user should ensure that extinguishers, gas cartridges and replacement charges are inspected, serviced and maintained as recommended in current British

Standards. These procedures should be carried out by a competent person capable of conducting them according to the recommendations of this code and any special procedures recommended by the manufacturers using recommended tools, equipment and materials at least annually.

Schedule of maintenance
Type of Extinguisher Basic Service Extended Service with Discharge Test Overhaul and Recharging
Water (stored pressure / gas cartridge) Every year Every 5 years -
Foam (stored pressure / gas cartridge) Every year Every 5 years -
Powder (stored pressure / gas cartridge) Every year Every 5 years -
Carbon dioxide Every year - -

Hose Reels

For further information see British Standard EN 671:3.

These should be inspected at intervals depending on the environment/​fire risks by a competent person for obvious leaks and corrosion. Regular visual checks should also be carried out to ensure that the hose reel is unobstructed, clearly visible and operating instructions are present.

Annual Service and Inspection by a Competent Person

The hose should be completely run out and subjected to operational water pressure to ensure that the hose is in good condition, that all couplings are water tight and the nozzle is easy to operate. A flow test should be carried out to ensure a steady and sufficient flow (use of a flow indicator and pressure gauge is recommended).

Sprinkler Systems (Automatic)

For further information see BS EN 671:3.

Weekly Routine

The following checks should be recorded:

  • Water and air pressure gauge reading on installations, trunk mains and pressure tanks and water levels in elevated private reservoirs, rivers, canals, lakes, water storage tanks and all gauge readings and levels recorded.
  • That each water motor alarm has been sounded for at least 30 seconds.
  • Fuel and oil levels of diesel engines used to power automatic pumps.
  • That automatic pumps start when the water pressure is reduced to the specified level and, if powered by diesel engines, the oil pressure, the flow of cooling water through open-circuit cooling systems or the water level in the primary circuit of closed-circuit cooling systems, and whether the engines will restart, using the manual start test button.
  • The electrolyte level and density of all acid battery cells and if the density is low that the battery charger is working correctly. Ensure that the affected cells have been replaced.
  • The operation of the mode monitoring system for stop valves in life safety installations.
  • The continuity of connection between the alarm switch and the control unit and between the control unit and the fire service (usually via a remote manned centre) for automatically monitored connections.
  • The correct functioning of trace heating systems provided to prevent freezing in the sprinkler system.

Quarterly, half yearly, yearly and three yearly

Arrange for inspections and tests of the sprinkler system to be carried out by a competent person, for any defects found to be logged and ensure any necessary action is taken. Ensure that certificates of satisfactory testing are received.

Section 4 Guidance on Escape Routes

Further guidance can be found in Part 2 of the appropriate premises guides under the above heading.

You should ensure that on a daily basis the escape routes are:

  • Free from obstruction, slip or trip hazards (stored or temporary items).
  • Clearly indicated to ensure relevant people can use them easily and immediately.
  • Equipped with fire doors, that are not wedged open or have self-closing devices removed, to prevent the spread of fire, heat and smoke.
  • Final exit doors can be opened quickly and easily by means of push bars, push pads or similar device, but not with the use of a key.
  • Areas outside the final exit doors are kept clear from obstruction.
  • Available for access by the emergency services.

Section 5 Guidance on Emergency Escape Lighting

Further guidance can be found in Part 2 of the appropriate premises guides under the above heading.

For further information see BS 5266:1.

  • The emergency escape lighting system is required to be monitored and tested by a nominated competent person. This person should have sufficient information and training in order to carry out all aspects of routine testing and supervision of the system. Due to the possibility of a failure of the normal lighting shortly after a period of testing of the emergency lighting system or during the subsequent recharge period, all tests should be undertaken at times of minimum risk.
  • Inspect the system daily and ensure that every indicator lamp in a maintained unit is lit. If any defects are found then record in the log book and report it to a responsible person. It should be ensured that any previous faults recorded have received urgent attention.
  • Monthly test of all self-contained luminaires by simulating normal lighting failure. The period of simulated failure should not exceed one quarter the rated duration of the luminaire or sign and all luminaires/​signs should be visually examined to ensure correct function.
  • Six-monthly test of self-contained luminaires, internally illuminated signs and central battery systems by a power failure simulation of 1 hour for 3 hour duration units and 15 minutes for 1 hour units. During the test check all luminaires for proper function.
  • Three yearly test for full duration of self-contained and central battery systems. During the test check all luminaires and at the end when the supply is restored ensure that any indicator lamp or device is showing normal supply.
  • Subsequent annual tests should be undertaken following the same practice as the three yearly test or at the discretion of the enforcing authority.

Section 6 Guidance on Signs and Notices

Further guidance can be found in Part 2 of the appropriate premises guides under the above heading.

All signs and notices will need illumination to ensure they are conspicuous and legible. Appropriate signage will take into account the type of people who may need to use them. Regular checks are required to ensure that all signs and notices are clearly visible and unobstructed enabling relevant people to use them in an emergency.

Section 7 Guidance on Informing, Instructing and Training

Further guidance can be found in Part 2 of the appropriate premises guides under the above heading.

Are all relevant people aware of their responsibilities in the event of an emergency? Ensure that they know:

  • What action to take on discovering a fire and on hearing the fire alarm.
  • How to raise the alarm.
  • How to contact the Fire Service.
  • Correct evacuation procedures and location of the assembly points.
  • Only tackle a fire if it is safe to do so (when fire is small and correct extinguisher is available)
  • Aware of the contents of the Fire Risk Assessment.

Employees should receive training during working hours when they start employment, following any changes to the emergency plan or to the workplace and if there are changes to work practices and processes.

What to do in the case of a fire

On the sounding of the fire alarm the building must be evacuated following your emergency plan. Where possible try to contain the fire by shutting doors and windows; this will help to reduce draughts that may fan and spread the fire. Contact the fire service immediately ensuring the name and address of the premises is given clearly. Try not to position yourself too close to fire bells/​sirens if possible when making the emergency call. It can become very difficult for all parties to hear vital information. When the fire service arrives ensure the responsible person meets them to collate information. Do not re-enter the building for any reason.

Part 3 Fire safety maintenance checklist

Daily Check Advice

The daily check advice below is not a comprehensive list, but it is a good example of how you could adopt a maintenance checklist to fit your needs in supporting your fire safety policy. All the listed checks below do not have to be recorded and are tasks that can be undertaken as part of the working day.

Daily Checks (not normally recorded) Yes No
Escape Routes:
· Can all fire exits be opened immediately and easily?
· Are fire escape doors clear of obstruction?
· Are escape routes clear?
Fire Warning System:
· Is the indicator panel showing normal?
· Are whistles, gongs or air horns in place?
Escape Lighting:
· Are luminaires and exit signs in good condition and undamaged?
· Is emergency lighting and sign lighting working correctly?
Firefighting Equipment:
· Are all fire extinguishers in place?
· Are fire extinguishers clearly visible?
· Are any vehicles blocking fire hydrants

Record Logs

To be completed as indicated or as required