We can make decisions about the fire safety equipment we install in our homes and we can ensure that our workplace is compliant, but fire safety affects every aspect of our lives. We assume that when we are in a public building, that the person responsible has abided by the regulations.
Since the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2006, the ‘responsible’ person in building must be able to prove that the fire safety equipment within the building is fit for purpose. We rely on the fact that when we send our children to school, go to the cinema, attend a hospital appointment or spend our money in our favourite shopping centre, the owner is committed to providing a safe environment for everyone in the premises.
The issue in public buildings is that a series of budget cuts and spending restrictions over recent years has made it a challenge to balance the books. With so many demands on a limited amount of money means that some organisations are looking for ways to cut corners. If the building has never had any previous fire incidents, it may be tempting to reduce the spend on fire safety. This might mean equipment isn’t upgraded or maintained as regularly as it should be to be effective.
The issue is fires do ignite. Last month the London Fire and Rescue service attended a number of fires in public buildings. These included a fire in a nightclub in Paddington, a restaurant fire in Blackheath and a kitchen fire in a Sloane Square hotel in Chelsea. In each incident four fire engines tackled the blaze and fortunately they resulted in no fatalities. Having said this, the owners now face the disruption to business whilst repairs are undertaken and some of the patrons who were involved may be put off returning. In either case, the investment in quality fire equipment is a cost effective decision.
Fire Alarms for Early Warning
Beyond not complying with current regulations, there are several serious problems with thinking that you can cut corners with fire safety. For a start, you may have been fortunate enough to have avoided fire so far, but insufficient equipment puts your building, its contents and most importantly everyone within the building at risk. Another issue is that larger public buildings often present a number of challenges with regards to the evacuation process. Trying to move people safely out of a building which they are unfamiliar with, when those people may have a range of needs can be complex and time consuming. For this reason an effective early warning system is essential.
High quality fire alarms that have been professionally installed and regularly maintained can provide that early warning. Cheaper fire alarms that haven’t been properly fitted can actually cause more problems than they resolve. The detection system picks up not just heat and smoke, but also aerosol sprays, steam, smoke produced by cooking food etc. A cheaper fire alarm may be regularly activated by non-hazardous detection, which can result in time, money and resources being wasted by both the staff in the building and the fire crews that respond. These incidents are known as false alarms and if they happen frequently, it can result in complacency which would be problematic should a real fire occur.
If you are responsible for the fire safety in a public building, it is advisable to gain advice and a service from a fully accredited company. Surrey Fire and Safety serve organisations across the capital by providing support with compliance, high quality products and a professional installation and maintenance service for equipment including extinguishers, sprinklers and fire alarms. London has an excellent fire and rescue service, but its best to avoid meeting them!