Fire safety for
your business -
ask the experts

As it’s business fire safety week we decided to ask our experts in electrical, mechanical and regulatory fire safety what questions they were most commonly asked. We hope you’ll find their answers informative and useful. And if there’s something we haven’t covered, why not get in touch? Here they are:

What effect is lockdown having on business fire safety?

The most common question we’re asked is “what’s going on?” regardless of the situation, but with commercial property fires up a staggering 46% during lockdown* it’s never been more vital to protect your premises from the threat of a blaze.

Fires can be a devastating experience for businesses. Anyone who’s experienced one first-hand, or had to deal with the aftermath, will vouch for that.

It’s not just the physical damage, although that’s obviously what hits you first. It’s what comes with it – the unseen destruction of jobs and people’s livelihoods. The knock-on effect for families and homes. Years of graft and hard work literally up in smoke.

Gardner arranging plants

It’s better to be better prepared

While the risk of fire can never be completely eradicated, there are things you can do to help minimise the problem. More than simply guarding against a worst-case scenario, this is about making sure your business is as robust as possible. In other words, effective protection that starts long before a 999 call.

And this isn’t just about protecting your livelihood, it’s about your legal responsibilities to staff and neighbours as a business owner.

Fire safety – the bottom line

The economic impact of a fire can be devastating. So much so, that over half of all businesses that experience a serious fire never reopen.

50% stat in a doughnut chart

What are my legal responsibilities?

The businesses that don’t have fires, or the ones that fare better if they’re unlucky enough to have one, are those that are best prepared. So if you’re the owner, landlord, employer or occupier of a premises, then it’s your responsibility to make sure all fire regulations are met. You have a legal responsibility as well as a moral obligation to all employees and visitors.

That means conducting regular fire risk assessments to:

  • Identify potential fire hazards
  • Identify people at risk
  • Address these risks
  • Record findings, prepare a plan and provide training
  • Review and update assessment regularly
Storage room with cardboard boxes on shelves

Taking stock

A good fire risk assessment will take into account your stock levels and the risk they present to your business as well as the risk if it were lost in a fire. Stock is the staple ingredient that keeps your business moving. So where would you be if it all vanished overnight? If your stock was to go up in smoke, you’d be forced to replace it. Not everyone can afford to do that, and even if you can it would eat into your cash reserves. Warehouses are particularly at risk due to the large quantities of materials they hold. To put it bluntly, it pays to take precautions.

Man on phone while working on his laptop

Cash flow crisis

It’s not just replacing your stock that can prove costly. Add to this the wait for your insurance payout to come through, plus the cost of repairing or moving premises, and you can soon see how a lack of cash flow could prove to be the final straw for your business. Unfortunately, it’s a fact that after a fire, 60% of businesses don’t recover^. That’s how hard it can be to bounce back.

If your business has five or more employees, you must keep a written record of your fire risk assessment.

If you don’t, and there is an incident, then as well as the potential danger to lives, you could be facing litigation if you’re deemed to be at fault.

There’s plenty of government guidance and advice online to help you complete a fire risk assessment yourself, or you can appoint a professional risk assessor to do it for you.

How does COVID-19 factor into my risk assessment?

Many premises remain either closed entirely, open for reduced hours or are operating with reduced staff. Even if you completed a fire risk assessment just before the pandemic began, it may need revising in light of changes to:

  • The amount or type of stock being stored
  • What the building is being used for
  • The number of people using the building

Don’t forget to consider whether furloughing or redundancies will have an impact on fire safety too.For instance, how many of your trained fire marshals are still at work? All of these factors may necessitate a new fire risk assessment.

Large empty warehouse

What should I do if my building is now empty?

If your building remains unused – due to Covid or other factors – it’s important to realise your responsibilities. Empty buildings are at increased risk of break-ins and arson and failure to comply with best practice risks invalidating your insurance.

  • Start by carrying out a fire risk assessment review with particular emphasis on the likelihood of an arson attack
  • Make sure all fire and security systems are in good working order and continue planned maintenance and weekly testing
  • Check all lightning conductors and similar protective measures are intact... Read full checklist
  • Ensure that all keys are accounted for and recovered. If any are missing the locks will need to be changed
  • Apart from essential services such as lighting, fire and security systems, disconnect or isolate all services and utilities at the perimeter of the building
  • In winter, maintain temperature at or above 4ºC to avoid frost damage to any sprinkler system or other essential water services. Drain down all tanks except those which specifically need to be used
  • Remove as much combustible material as you can, especially litter
  • Secure letter flaps and install an anti-arson metal box inside. Redirect mail
  • Purge all tanks and pipes carrying combustible or explosive liquids and gases. Implement safety measures to prevent ignition or explosion from residual vapours
  • If you have a perimeter fence make sure it’s secure and check that CCTV is working correctly
  • If you’re not comfortable with employees answering alarm calls, consider a keyholder, private security or police response package
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What are the main causes of fire in the workplace?

Given the variety of premises and businesses it’s difficult to say what’s likely to be a cause of fire in any one situation – which is why it’s essential to have an up-to-date fire risk assessment carried out by someone who know what they’re doing. Getting this done will give you a good understanding of the potential causes of fire in your workplace and is a good place to start for any business owner.

We’ll also take a look at some of the more common failings that can turn a small fire into something much more serious.

What other methods of protection are available?

Sprinkler system icon

Sprinkler systems

Modern Automatic Fire Suppression Systems, commonly called sprinklers, can save lives and livelihoods. They provide protection from fire damage and, most importantly, give people a greater chance of getting out if there is a blaze. If you’re unlucky enough to have a fire they can significantly reduce the cost of the damage it causes by reducing its spread and severity.

Fire hose reels

Another level up from extinguishers, fire hose reels offer a quick and inexhaustible flow of water. They can be installed by a single technician, minimising disruption to your business, and in an emergency they’re easy to spot, identify and use.

Fire hose icon
Emergency lighting icon

Emergency lighting

All emergency routes and exits must be well lit. That includes lighting at every door, corridor, floor level, staircase, and next to fire-fighting equipment and alarms. Your emergency lighting should, of course, be tested regularly. In the event of a fire, you’ll want to get out quickly and safely.

What can I do to help right now?

There are different fire extinguishers for different types of fire, your fire risk assessment will contain information on the ignition and fuel risks that are in your building and you should ensure that the correct type of device is selected, either mounted on the wall or a special stand with a label that shows the types of fire the extinguisher is suitable for and basic operating instructions.

The classes of fire and appropriate extinguishers are:

Busy office

Ensure your fire risk assessment it up-to-date and reflects any changes to your business operation, occupancy levels and the changing risk factors. This will give you a clear picture of your responsibilities and the best way forward.

Person signing papers

Make sure your insurance policy and paperwork are valid. The last thing you need in the event of a fire is for you to find you’re not properly covered.

Fire extinguisher

Ensure that your fire safety equipment is properly maintained, it’s a legal requirement** that any equipment or facilities that form part of your fire safety strategy is properly maintained. Plus it gives you peace of mind that the systems protecting your property, staff and stock are working as they should be.

Exit sign

Make sure that there are adequate and accessible fire doors, signage and emergency lighting in place. And that you have designated stewards and fire officers, plus a workforce who literally ‘know the drill’ through regular practice.

What can I do about protecting my business moving forward?

When you’ve dealt with the immediate fire precautions for your business it’s important to think about the medium and long-term.

It goes without saying that ADT take fire and security seriously. That’s why all our smoke detectors and alarms aren’t just installed, they’re also monitored. Which means we can even detect if the battery is low or there’s a technical fault, so you don’t have to worry whether they’re still effective.

The other benefit of your smoke detector being linked to an ADT alarm panel and monitored 24/7/365, is that it takes care of itself – you don’t have to be close by.

We promise that all threats of fire are taken seriously. If smoke’s detected, we’ll contact you and your designated keyholders or private security personnel (depending on the cover you choose), as well as the fire service.

We don’t hang about either, responding to fire alarms and smoke alarms in an average of just eight seconds. It’s industry-leading for speed, not to mention reassurance.

Need more advice? We’re always here...

We all have enough to deal with at the moment without the potential for fire. Fire doesn’t care if there’s a pandemic, or if you’re struggling for money in the current climate. A little bit of preparation now could make all the difference in the future. And if you’d like any more advice about protecting your business from the threat of fire, we’d be more than happy to talk through your options.

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To find out more about how ADT can help protect your business, enter your details and one of our Security Consultants will be in touch.

They'll arrange to visit your premises and recommend the right security solution based on your property and business.

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If you have any questions about our products and services, you can call us on:

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Please use this form to submit an enquiry. This form collects your name, email address, and other personal information. Please read our Privacy Policy for information on how we protect and manage your personal data. By completing this form and submitting your information, you confirm that you have reviewed, understood and accepted our privacy terms as well as our cookie terms.