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Fire Safety Covid 19 Coronavirus. The following is advice given from the Fire and Rescue Service regarding The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
This advice is given by the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service so information regarding attending calls regarding attending calls for automatic fire alarms should be checked with your local Fire and Rescue Service.
During these unprecedented times we are aware that businesses may have to make difficult decisions and change working practices and arrangements dramatically to ensure business continuity. If you are having to make any changes to your working arrangements, please consider the following:
Fire Risk Assessment – all changes to working practices should be detailed in your fire risk assessment, especially if this could include smaller staff numbers for staff led evacuations or key members of staff could be absent, such as Fire Wardens.
Lone workers should ensure they would be aware of any fires that could start in remote areas of a building that would normally be staffed. The closing of fire doors in such circumstances will be vital to stop the spread of fire and smoke.
Lower staff numbers may result in changes to arrangements if the fire alarm actuates, if you no longer have enough staff to investigate a false alarm then immediate evacuation would be the most sensible practice.
Between 09:00 hrs and 17:00 hrs, Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays) the Fire Service will not attend calls from automatic fire alarms at low and medium risk premises unless accompanied by a confirmation that there is an actual fire at the premises. It is very important to let the Fire Service know if you have a fire alarm system which automatically calls the Fire Service and you are closing your workplace for the foreseeable future so we can utilise our resources correctly in the event of a call to your workplace.
Building owners, managers, or responsible persons with any doubt about the suitability of a waking watch should please immediately contact the local Fire and Rescue Service (FRS).
This fire safety COVID 19 advice is applicable only to the use of waking watches in buildings where a stay put strategy has been temporarily suspended, and the situation has changed due to the current COVID-19 situation. Due to the ever-evolving situation it should be acknowledged this advice is under continuous review.
It is the responsibility under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) of the Responsible Person (RP) to ensure the provision of the waking watch is maintained until fire safety issues are fully remediated. Where the need for a waking watch has been identified,these will be essential for maintaining the viability of the premises for continued residential occupation. The need to implement and maintain a waking watch is one which Responsible Persons need to do in order to safeguard residents due to specific fire safety Covid 19 issues with the building.
The coronavirus situation may result in potentially higher rates of occupancy and vulnerability,due to people staying home, some potentially unwell, for an extended period of time. Ensuring their safety is paramount. Firefighters are typically called to a larger number of domestic fires during times where there is traditionally an increase in cooking – in the evenings and weekends.
With increased numbers of people at home during the day, there is potential for more fires as people adapt their daily routines. Common causes of fires in the home such as cooking, smoking, electrical items and heating sources could become even more prevalent as people are spending more time indoors.If due to the coronavirus there are challenges maintaining waking watch coverage, those responsible will need to implement suitable alternative interim arrangements. Dependency on numbers of staff can be reduced through the installation of a Common Fire Alarm.
Competent Persons, RPs and Fire Safety Officers should familiarise themselves with the social distancing guidance from Public Health England, to ascertain how this might be applied to enable waking watches to remain in place.
This is an unprecedented time and there is a need for fire services to have a balanced approach to fire safety Covid 19 situation on a case by case basis. We encourage FRS to make all reasonable efforts to support RPs, recognising the potentially higher risk to public health arising from the threat of coronavirus. However, FRSs have a positive duty to enforce the FSO. FRS should not to step into the role of the Competent Person and are encouraged to keep careful records of any audits and discussions related to waking watches.
The above information is given from the National Fire Chiefs Council. See the full document Waking watches and COVID-19