Frequently Asked Questions
How does COVID-19 impact on ‘Waking Watch’?
We are asking premises with a waking watch to ensure they are still able to maintain it to an effective level. Further guidance can be found at
COVID-19 and waking watch(.pdf, 4 pages, 161kb, opens in a new window).
How do I protect my business while it’s empty?
Please see our
Arson Prevention page.
You will find advice and some checklists to use to help you safeguard your premises from arson. However, securing a premises should not affect the means of escape from other premises which are still open, residential buildings or where wayleave agreements are in place.
Do I still need to be testing my fire safety equipment?
The maintenance and testing of the fire detection and alarm system should be continued where it is possible and safe to do so. This should be prioritised based on the risks identified by the Responsible Person and their contractors e.g. fire in the shop, now closed, affecting the residents in the flat above. Another example would be where the fire detection and alarm system serve multiple premises, some of which may still be operating.
I can’t get an engineer out to fix faulty equipment/do a service?
Most engineers are classed as key workers during this time. If you’re unable to contact a competent person, make sure an engineer is booked in when you’re back at work. Make sure any risk is managed with control measures, recorded in the Fire Risk Assessment and you are seeking to put the right measures in place as soon as reasonably practicable.
What about when I’m re-opening my business? Recovery Stage.
COVID-19 Return to Work leaflet (.pdf, 2 pages, 589kb). As soon as there is even one person in the workplace, the legislation applies, and fire safety must be managed adequately. Get back into normal routines:
- Review your Fire Risk Assessment.
Consider changes such as working practices, stock levels, alterations made to the premises and staff numbers. It is essential that assessments are undertaken and reviewed where there are significant changes in ways of working, processes or building layout.
- Make sure all equipment is still working.
Whilst you have been closed have you maintained your premises fire safety features, i.e. fire alarm, fire extinguisher and emergency lighting? Timely maintenance is vital for the safety of your business and those that use the premises. Ensure any equipment overdue a service is booked in.
- Renew staff training.
Where staff numbers have changed, businesses must ensure that they continue to provide appropriate staff training. If you haven’t undertaken staff training for some time, on your return ensure that all staff know what to do in a fire situation. If those people with specific tasks have not returned to work, ensure that other suitably trained staff are available. You must also consider the needs of lone workers and their fire safety.
- Ensure escape routes are clear, available and open correctly.
Remember, they may have seized up whilst not in use. If you share an escape route, those other businesses may not be open, so consider how you can ensure escape routes are always available. This should be supported with adequate escape signage and lighting to identify the escape routes to be used in event of fire.
- Protect your business from arson.
Due to the potential increased stock and the period of closure, the amount of rubbish you generate may increase. Care should be taken when dealing with this rubbish, as accumulated rubbish outside of the building provides a potential target for arson which could damage your business.
- Ensure COVID-secure measures don't compromise fire safety.
Screens must not obstruct smoke detection. Measures to support social distancing should not impact evacuation procedures. Fire doors must not be wedged open. One-way systems should not divert occupants away from their nearest fire exit.
- Re-start weekly routines such as testing and maintenance.
Re-establishing regular rhythms of testing and maintenance will help ensure your employees, customers, visitors and contractors are safe from fire.
My business is still open but experiencing a surge in demand. Does the legislation still apply?
Yes, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) still applies. It is the duty of the Responsible Person (RP) defined in Article 3 of the RRO to ensure risk from fire is identified and suitable measures implemented, these should be recorded in your Fire Risk Assessment (FRA). Significant changes may include:
- Higher quantities of stock being on site than would normally be the case. The RP should ensure that this does not compromise escape routes.
- Parts of the premises being closed; the FRA should determine the level of risk resulting from the changes and any mitigation measures e.g. more frequent deliveries/collections or the use of other sites to provide storage.
- Where staff numbers have been increased, businesses must ensure that they continue to provide appropriate staff training. This is sometimes overlooked where employees of the same company come to work at a different site. RPs should be able to show that all personnel are aware of what to do in case of fire. They should also test their emergency procedures, particularly after large staff increases.
- Reductions in staff due to sickness and self-isolation is to be expected. Businesses should ensure that their FRA reflects the added risk of such reductions, including ensuring there are enough appointed competent persons to take over important duties. Issues may include having insufficient staff available to carry out processes safely, increasing the risk of fire, or not being able to successfully carry out evacuations and emergency procedures such as in-house fire response or fire warden duties.
Is the current legal notice I received from the fire and rescue service valid?
Yes, the current situation with COVID-19 has not changed the status of any notices issued. You should contact the issuing officer if you require further advice and guidance.
Can we wedge open fire doors to stop people from touching handles?
No, fire doors are an important fire safety measure, keep fire doors closed and follow government advice on hand washing and cleansing hard surfaces.
Fire doors can only be held open by automatic releasing hold-open devices specifically designed and installed for this purpose.
How do I maintain social distancing at the Assembly Point during an evacuation?
If your assembly point is too small, you may wish to consider using a different assembly point where social distancing is more easily achieved.
You will need to review and revise your current emergency plan and Fire Marshall provision, including the Assembly Point, considering the number of occupants and ensure all occupants are issued with revised instructions and are aware of what is expected.
I have vulnerable people in my care, how can I look after them?
You may employ people who are classed as vulnerable, or care for those who are vulnerable. The effects of the virus on working practices and available staff may negatively affect the ability of vulnerable persons to escape in the event of fire.
Employers should continue to undertake and review their Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for their staff. This is particularly crucial in the care industry where residents may rely on staff to instigate evacuation measures. In any case, procedures should be reviewed so that they accurately reflect the staff available. Such reviews must carefully weigh the risks from fire and the ability of such businesses to operate safely.
My premises is being used as a temporary care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. What extra measures do I need?
The National Fire Chief’s Council have issued guidance specifically for premises changing their use during this time;
NFCC Field Hospitals Guidance (.pdf, 6 pages, 334kb, opens in a new window). The main considerations needed are to the evacuation plan, staffing levels and compensatory measures for a lack of active/passive fire protection arrangements.
My building has changed its use for the duration of coronavirus. What do I need to do?
Some premises may also have been repurposed to undertake other work. An example would be a warehouse which previously had a very small risk and few staff, now undertaking essential work to provide manufacture of medical items or the packing of food parcels. This may have happened within a short timeframe and it is unlikely that fire safety will have been a primary consideration. Such actions may increase the risk due to the type of work being carried out, the number of staff present and any material works that may be necessary to allow the building to facilitate its task.
In all cases, a review of the FRA should be undertaken to determine the effect on risk and the mitigation measures that may need to be taken. In addition, the current pandemic does not remove any requirements under the Building Regulations to ensure that alterations meet the functional requirements.
My school remains open during the pandemic, what do I need to put in place?
The National Fire Chief’s Council has released
Guidance for Schools(.pdf, 2 pages, 257kb, opens in a new window) in managing fire safety, while they undertake special actions to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. This is separate from the NFCC advice for premises that provides student accommodation. Their
Student Accommodation Guidance (.pdf, 4 pages, 328kb, opens in a new window) supports any temporary changes to fire strategy as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
How are fire and rescue services (FRS) changing how they work with businesses?
As with all of society, your FRS is having to adapt to the current situation and we are following national guidance.
NFCC Protection Strategic Intention COVID-19 (.pdf, 5 pages, 400kb, opens in a new window).
Managing Fire Safety in businesses during COVID-19:
For further guidance from the National Fire Chief's Council, please see their Advice to Businesses (.pdf, 13 pages, 518kb, opens in a new window).
For further guidance from the Health and Safety Executive, please see their advice on working safely during COVID-19 (opens in a new window).
Please see the government website to find their guidance on working safely during COVID-19 (opens in a new window).