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Fire Precautions

At this stage of the process, the method used to control fire hazards along with the precautions in place in the premises, are considered.

Controlling Fire Hazards

Preventing fires happening is one of the main goals of a Fire Risk Assessment.

For each of the fire hazards that have been identified, consideration should be given to ways that a fire can be prevented.  This involves controlling the ignition sources, the reducing the 'fire load' (the amount of flammable and combustible material) and limiting the air that could get to a fire.

For more details, including some examples, please see our Controlling Hazards page.

Means of Escape (Exits and Fire Exits)

Should there be an outbreak of fire in a building such as a Place of Worship, it is normal practice to evacuate the premises.  It is important, therefore, to have an adequate provision of exits and fire exits to ensure that people can get out of the building.

The usual target time for evacuating a building is 2.5 minutes, however this may be extended by 30 seconds for more modern premises with better fire precautions, or reduced by 30 seconds (or more) for higher risk premises where a fire may take hold more rapidly.

There must be sufficient numbers of fire exit routes from the premises to ensure that everyone can get out of the building quickly enough if there is a fire.  In spaces where there are more than 60 people, or where there is a complex layout, usually more than one exit will be required.

Exits need to be unlocked and ready to be used by any person that may need it.  Ideally, all exits which are to be used by the Public should be opened by one action only, such as a panic bar, and the door should open in the direction of travel when exiting the premises.

Exit routes, including aisles, must be kept clear of obstructions.  Doors must be unobstructed (inside and out) to ensure people can get out of the building quickly. 

Limiting Fire and Smoke Spread

Other than for the smallest of premises, when fire does break out, it should be contained within a defined area within the building by means of fire-resisting structure.  These areas are known as 'compartments'.  Features within these compartments include fire-resisting walls and doors, which are designed to withstand the affects of fire for a period of time, usually 30 minutes.

It would be common for fire resisting structures to be used along exit routes to protect the people using that route as they evacuate from the smoke and flames.  External fire escape routes should also be protected from fire for the same reason.

Further fire protection may be included for property protection objectives, to protect the building from fire.  This is usually rated for at least one hour and is commonplace for Church boiler rooms.

Fire protection may easily be breached when things pass through the protection, including cables, pipes and ducts.  When these are installed, cables and pipes need to be properly fire-stopped and ducts may need to have fire dampers installed.  Some materials, known as 'Intumescents' will expand when exposed to heat and flame to block off any gaps and these are often used for fire-stopping.

Other Fire Precautions

Certain fire precautions are designed to give an early warning of the outbreak of fire, control or extinguish the fire or otherwise protect people.  These are shown on our Common Fire Precautions page.

Fire Safety Management

In this part of the assessment, procedures and arrangements for safety are considered.  This includes evacuation plans and procedures, people nominated to assist in an evacuation or liaising with the emergency services and routine inspections.  At this point, the effectiveness of fire safety training (including drills) is considered.

For more information, please see our Fire Safety Management page.

Making a judgement: are the precautions adequate?

One of the key considerations in any Risk Assessment is whether or not the precautions are adequate or if additional ones are required.  The requirements for fire precautions vary depending on the hazards identified in the assessment, which varies depending on the number of people and where those people are in the building.  For this reason, each Risk Assessment has to include a judgement call about the adequacy of the precautions.

It may be possible to use one type of fire precaution to offset deficiencies in others.  However, care should be taken when doing so to make sure that the right balance is made between each fire precaution type.

Previous stage: Determine who is at risk from fire

Next stage: Evaluate the risk

Back to Fire Risk Assessment

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