As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the globe, more companies are adopting stronger measures to protect employees from contracting and spreading the virus.
However, as the work practices, movements and behavior changes, businesses should also consider how their fire and security systems can help them mitigate risks in the wake of COVID-19.
Fire safety during COVID-19
During this extraordinary situation, it must be noted that fire safety cannot be put on hold. Fire does not discriminate, and it is important that one's fire safety policy is well maintained appropriately.
Maintaining regular inspections, at specific periods and intervals, is a firm requirement under British Standards which informs one’s compliance under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and potentially, the insurance providers.
FAFS encourages all customers, at this time, not to attempt to disrupt the ongoing planned preventative maintenance regime of their fire and security systems. One still has an obligation to maintain systems and carry out the legal duties regarding fire protection within the property.
Restricted access to site
This could be an ideal time to ensure the fire safety systems have been maintained suitably
It is understandable that premises management would be restricting access for fire safety providers to their buildings at present. It is also very understandable that business continuity and the welfare of staff is one's primary concern.
If one’s business premises are now closed, this could be an ideal time to ensure the fire safety systems and provisions have been or could be maintained suitably according to legislation. One may want to consider scheduling in maintenance so that the premises are occupied some of the time. It also allows the opportunity to undertake work with unimpeded access.
However, FAFS stresses only do this at present if it is safe to do so. If one is unable to fulfil the scheduled maintenance of fire safety provisions, please take measures to ensure any people in the building will remain safe, and document actions, and return to one’s regular fire safety policy and scheduled work/maintenance when appropriate. The specified fire safety providers/local Fire and Rescue Service will be able to advise further.
Loss prevention and risk reduction measures should be considered for all buildings in the event of closure, even if it’s only temporary. Unoccupied properties are vulnerable to fire, theft and malicious damage, and need to be managed accordingly.
Theft of contents are common when routine site inspections are not carried out
Fires starting in unoccupied premises feature prominently in UK loss statistics. Causes of fire are mainly arson-related, but also include electrical faults in fixed wiring. In addition, theft of contents and fixtures and fittings, vandalism, occupation by squatters are common, especially when routine site inspections are not carried out.
Well-maintained fire alarm
A well-installed, tested and maintained fire alarm and intruder alarm system is essential to provide an early warning sign that there is an issue in one’s building. These systems should be connected to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) to support prompt notification and response to any activation.
Security systems are usually deactivated and activated on a daily basis, so one would know immediately if there is an issue. Fire systems and provisions are not, which is why a regular maintenance schedule is vitally important (and a legal obligation) to ensure these are fully operational in the event of fire.
In the event of a lockdown, the fire protection industry has strongly advised Government that Third Party Certificated fire safety providers are listed as Key Workers, and this has now been confirmed by James Brokenshire, Minister of State for Security at the Home Office:
People working in these sectors who are essential to national infrastructure are Key Workers"
“Security and fire safety personnel can play a vital role at this time of national challenge. People working in these sectors who are essential to national infrastructure are “Key Workers” for the purposes of the Government’s guidance on COVID-19.”
Emergency callouts could prevent any additional/unnecessary false alarms for example. This will reduce any strain on emergency services from attending with additional responsibilities they may face moving forward.
FAFS services are critical to the COVID-19 response, and are critical to the operation of customers within the critical sectors detailed by the Cabinet Office including; Health and Social Care (NHS), Education and Childcare, Key Public Services, Local and National Government, Food and Other Necessary Goods, Public Safety and National Security, Transport, Utilities, communication and financial services.
Keeping Critical Sectors and their users safe and secure through the delivery of fire alarm and detection system testing, fire extinguisher testing, fire suppression system testing, sprinkler system testing, security system maintenance, providing critical alarm monitoring services and emergency lighting system maintenance.
Security services essential to public safety including essential alarm monitoring, CCTV system maintenance and monitoring, panic alarms, nurse call systems and intruder alarms.
Marlowe Plc provides essential health and safety services, which assure safety and compliance
The services that the FAFS group provides are essential to client’s operations and they recognize the great trust and reliance that the clients place in them to provide these critical services without disruption to keep them safe and compliant with health and safety legislation.
Marlowe Plc provides essential health and safety services, which assure safety and compliance with the following legislation. The requirements to follow this legislation and guidance have not been reduced by the pandemic: Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO); NPCC; DPA; Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; ACOP L8 Regulation; Workplace Health & Safety and Welfare; Control of Substances Hazardous to Health; TR19 Ventilation and Air Quality.
If FAFS ability, to deliver Key Services through Key Workers, to the identified Critical Sectors is disrupted, then it will place those working within the Critical Sectors at risk and may result in a disruption in their ability to support one in overcoming this crisis.