Business safety advice

It is important for businesses to know and understand their legal responsibilities in relation to fire safety and their premises, and what is required. From Fire Risk Assessments to event fire safety, you’ll find guidance and advice below to help your business stay safe.  

Living above a business

If you're responsible for small business premises where people sleep, fire safety law applies to you!

There have been a number of recent fires in Kent in businesses such as fast food outlets, pubs, takeaways, cafes and restaurants where upper floors are being used for sleeping accommodation. These fires often result in significant financial loss, with a high risk of injury and even death. 

It is particularly important to consider and put in place the right fire safety arrangements to protect not only the lives of you, your family, employees and customers, but also your property and your business.

In many cases it has come to light that people are sleeping in rooms and or flats above businesses, often accessed by a single unprotected staircase from the main public or kitchen area of the building, like this one:

Diagram demonstrating a single unprotected staircase from the main kitchen area of the building

Often these exit routes are blocked with combustible materials. Experience has shown that people living on upper floors find it difficult to evacuate quickly and safely in an emergency unless a safe exit route is available.

What must I do?

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – makes you responsible for taking steps to protect the people using your premises from the risk of fire.

You must:

  • Carry out a fire risk assessment
  • If necessary, improve your fire safety measures
  • Keep the risks, and your fire safety measures under review

What is a fire risk assessment? 

It is a thorough look at your premises and the people who are likely to use them. It considers the risk of fire breaking out and what measures you need to put in place to prevent it and keep people safe.

What happens if I don’t do a fire risk assessment? 
You are committing an offence and you could be putting people’s lives at risk. We may inspect your premises as part of our responsibility to enforce the law, or a customer or someone working for you may report you to us if they feel at risk.

If we think you need to improve your fire safety, we can give you advice on what measures may be appropriate for you to take and agree a time period for you to make the improvements.

We can also take formal legal enforcement action if you fail to do this, or if we find a serious fire risk that you are not managing we can restrict the use of part or all of your premises and your business may be closed down.

If you live on the premises you may have to find somewhere else to stay. Since the introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 we have restricted the use of a number of takeaway and restaurant premises because they were so unsafe. You may also face a substantial fine and/or imprisonment for breaches of fire safety law.

Reducing the dangers

  • fit an alarm to provide early warning of fire throughout the building
  • keep escape routes clear from combustible material and other obstructions
  • never wedge open fire doors or remove door closing devices (a fire door can only protect you if it is kept closed)
  • protect/separate staircases with fire resisting construction to ensure your exit route is safe

Make sure your family and employees know how to

  • get out of the building in the event of fire
  • and call the fire and rescue service

Complete your fire risk assessment

STEP 1: Identify fire hazards
STEP 2: Identify people at risk
STEP 3: Evaluate, remove or reduce and protect from risk
STEP 4: Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
STEP 5: Review your fire risk assessment regularly

Safer use of acetylene

Every year, fire and rescue services attend hundreds of fires and incidents involving acetylene cylinders.    
If a cylinder is involved in fire, the risk of explosion can last for up to 24 hours after the fire has been extinguished.

If a cylinder explodes it can cause:

  • Travelling fireballs
  • Projectile hazards
  • Structural damage to near by buildings
  • Death and injuries

Impact on the community and business

Any fire involving acetylene will cause severe disruption.

This could involve a 200 metre radius hazard zone, for up to 24 hours, meaning:

  • People will have to leave their homes
  • Businesses will have to close
  • Roads closed, including motorways
  • Rail services suspended
  • Schools and hospitals closed and evacuated

The law

Businesses, including those that use acetylene, are required to comply with key laws that include:

Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002

This requires businesses to assess the risks of work activities with dangerous substances and to eliminate, substitute, or reduce the risks as far as reasonably practical.

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (FSO) 2005

This requires a responsible person (typically the business owner) to carry out a fire risk assessment.

The assessment should take account of the impact that a fire involving a cylinder might have on surrounding premises and people.

The Order became law on 1 October 2006.

In addition, your insurance company may require you to inform them if you use acetylene on your premises.

Emergency procedures 

Include the following points in your emergency plan:

  • If safe to do so, remove acetylene cylinders whilst evacuating
  • Store only what is required and not in bulk
  • Store securely outside when the building is not occupied
  • If used inside a building, ensure the trolley is close to an exit
  • Keep plans of the location of acetylene cylinders
  • Train staff on what to do in the event of fire

Alternatives 

Some welding or cutting jobs can be done without the use of acetylene:

  • Arc welding (electric)
  • Oxy-propane
  • Tungsten inert gas welding (TIG)
  • Metal inert gas welding (MIG)
  • Mechanical cutting
  • Use of a sub-contractor for welding activities

Safe storage and use of acetylene 

If you need to use acetylene you should:

  • Carry out a risk assessment (FSO and DSEAR)
  • Inform the local fire and rescue service (acetylene is classified as a dangerous substance)
  • Store in accordance with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance
  • Ensure cylinders are stored in the upright position
  • Store cylinders in a well ventilated area away from heat sources, flammables and corrosive oils/materials
  • Always use the correct personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Ensure flashback arrestors are fitted
  • Read and understand the safety data sheets

Returning acetylene cylinders

Contact your supplier – they should remove it for free
The details can normally be found on the shoulder of the cylinder
Advice on disposal can be obtained from your supplier

Useful contacts

British Compressed Gases Association

Health and Safety Executive

Safer kitchen ventilation

Keeping your commercial kitchen's extract ventilation system in good working order

Did you know?

  • 70 per cent of fires in commercial kitchens originate in faulty extract ventilation systems due to build up of fat and grease.
  • Grease build up also causes an environmental health hazard by providing a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • You can reduce these risks by carrying out regular cleaning of your kitchen extraction and ventilation systems.

Fire risks

Filters cannot remove all traces of grease and dirt from the air. Over time, a layer of grease and dirt builds up on the surfaces of ventilation ducts, canopies and extractor fans. This is a major fire risk.

Fires within ductwork are very difficult to stop. Ductwork is often inaccessible, and fire may break out of the ductwork into other buildings. Damage is often serious and businesses are forced to close.

Why carry out cleaning and maintenance?

  • You will reduce the risk of fire.
  • It prevents the build-up of grease deposits and bacteria within your kitchen extraction system.
  • Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, your extract systems need to be included in your fire risk assessment with action taken to minimise any potential fire risk to buildings and occupants.
  • Failure to carry out proper cleaning and maintenance could lead to a breach of Environmental Health regulations and could invalidate your fire insurance policy.

How often should I clean?

Ductwork

Ideally, you should measure the rate of build up of grease on the internal surfaces of ductwork. If this is not possible, your cleaning work should be planned around the level of use:

  • Heavy use (12-16 hours per day) - clean every three months.
  • Moderate use (6-12 hours per day) - clean every six months.
  • Light use (2-6 hours per day) - clean every 12 months.

Where cooking processes involve fat frying or wood/charcoal burning, cleaning may need to be more frequent.

Extract hoods and filters

These should be cleaned and degreased daily, or in accordance with manufacturers recommendations. Cooking should never be carried out unless there is a filter in place.

Chimney fires

Did you know?

  • Last year chimney fires in licensed premises were one of the most common incidents attended by Kent Fire and Rescue Service.
  • Nearly all those fires were caused due to a build up of debris in the chimney and failure to get it swept.
  • Fires of this nature can smoulder undetected for some time and present serious risk to you and your business. Before you use your chimney, it is essential to ensure it has recently been swept. Whatever fuel you burn, it is important that the chimney is kept clean and you do not allow soot or ash to build up.

Reducing the risk

It is also important to avoid storing too much in the roof space of your premises, especially near the chimney breast, as this can be a potentially serious fire hazard.

When fire takes hold in a chimney the bricks in the roof space can become very hot - hot enough to start a smouldering fire that can set light to any combustible material placed near it. Effectively, what you store in your roof could become fuel for a larger fire.

Another danger is carbon monoxide, which can escape from any appliance which burns fossil fuels, such as gas, coal, wood or oil. If you have a faulty appliance, or your property is not correctly ventilated or the chimney or flue is blocked, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.

It is vital to recognise that an open fire is a source of ignition and therefore should be identified as such within the premises fire risk assessment - failure to do so could lead to inadequate control measures being in place.

Follow these simple steps to protect yourself, your staff, your customers and your business from a chimney fire:

  • have your chimney professionally swept at least once a year, ideally before use - more frequently for wood (quarterly) and coal (twice a year).
  • make sure the appliance receives enough air to allow the fuel to burn properly.
  • only burn suitable fuels (such as properly seasoned wood).
  • never use petrol or paraffin to light your fire.
  • do not overload the grate/appliance.
  • maintain your appliance in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
  • use a fire or spark guard to prevent accidental fires.
  • inspect your chimney breast, particularly the roof space. Make sure that it is sound and that the sparks or fumes cannot escape through cracks or broken bricks.
  • avoid storing items in the roof space close to your chimney.
  • consider having a carbon monoxide detector fitted as an additional safeguard against the build up of poisonous fumes.
  • ensure your property has a working smoke/fire alarm.
  • ensure your fire risk assessment is up to date and fully comprehensive.

How to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

  • have your appliances installed and regularly serviced by a qualified engineer.
  • all gas appliances should be installed and regularly serviced by a Gas Safe (formerly CORGI) registered engineer.
  • ensure your property is ventilated - never block vents.
  • make sure all chimneys are regularly swept and flues are kept clear.

Clean Sweep Alert

Get a free email reminder about having your business' chimneys swept. Sign up for your free Clean Sweep Alert email today

Commercial waste disposal

Did you know?

  • Careless disposal of commercial and industrial waste can cost you dearly in terms of the threat and likelihood of fire.
  • Waste bins and skips are becoming a very popular target for arsonists especially over holidays and at night.
  • Don't let your business become another fire statistic and don't let your property offer a soft target for malicious damage and arson.
  • By taking some simple precautions, expensive inconvenience can be avoided.

Manage the disposal of waste

  • Don't allow rubbish to build up around your premises.
  • Clean up on a regular basis.
  • Do not obstruct fire exits with rubbish; it may be you who needs to escape via that route.

Collection of waste

Make arrangements with the waste disposal companies to collect and dispose of your waste before the start of holiday periods.

Frequency of collection

Keep an eye on how often your bins are emptied. Does the collection happen often enough or does waste produced exceed the capacity of the bins/skips provided? If it does, don't order more bins/skips; arrange for more frequent collections.

Storage of waste

  • If possible restrict access to where waste is stored – consider installing security devices such as cameras, lighting or alarms in storage areas.
  • Try not to encourage people to come onto your property unnecessarily.
  • Keep waste out of sight - choose where you locate your bin/skip but do not put them close to buildings and make sure there's a minimum of 3 metres between skips.
  • Use containers made of non-combustible material. Metal bins with rubber lids are a good choice as they can help prevent fire from spreading.
  • Ensure waste containers are never overfilled and are securely shut.
  • Companies with large volumes of waste paper and cardboard packaging should consider using a compactor instead of a vulnerable open skip.
  • Why not consider joining with other retailers or occupiers to jointly implement these measures? Your estate management company, landlord or local council may be able to advise.  
Farmers and landowners

Working with farmers and landowners

Even in cases where there is no danger of an open air fire spreading or being of any risk to the public, buildings or livestock, firefighters can be tied up for hours watching the haystack or other material smoulder and burn itself out.

Crucially for Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS), and the safety of the county, this means that crews are not available to deal with actual emergencies.

Over a three year period (April 2009 - October 2012):

  • KFRS attended 70 open air fires that exceeded 12 hours in duration (most commonly manure, haystacks, straw and barns)
  • There were 22 incidents involving baled hay or manure heaps tying crews up for over 12 hours while they burnt out
  • There were five incidents involving relatively small areas of rough ground or scrubland that tied crews up for over 12 hours while they burnt out
  • On two occasions crews were held up while open air fires smouldered and burnt themselves out for over 150 hours and 190 hours

We understand that in some cases farmers and land owners want to let a hay stack, burn out completely so they can plough it into the field and avoid having to dispose of sodden straw. In other cases, a barn may have been completely damaged by the fire and the farmer wants it to burn out completely to make it easier to dismantle and dispose of. However having a fire engine and crew tied up doing nothing while this happens is not a good use of this valuable and expensive resource.

It is clear from recent experience that many of these incidents could be closed down, or handed back to the owner, at a much earlier stage without any risk. For the last 6 months, KFRS has been handing control of such fires back to farmers and landowners without any problems. In many cases, farmers and landowners were keen to see this happen as having a fire engine and crew on their land for a prolonged period was getting in the way of their day-to-day business. Other fire and rescue services such as Cambridgeshire and Hampshire have been operating this system successfully for some time now and has proven to be very successful.

There is no intention to leave woodland or scrubland where there is no one to hand over responsibility to. But, where there is someone, KFRS will now consider handing over responsibility for open air fires back to the farmer or landowner at an earlier stage (which we have the legal right to do). However, KFRS also wants to reassure everyone that this will not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model and we will work alongside farmers and landowners to find a solution that suits each incident.

How it will work

  • KFRS will attend and deal with the fire and ensure there is no danger of spread as normal.
  • We will then meet with the farmer or landowner at the scene, discuss any issues and agree a handover time when you can take charge of the site. We will do this as early as possible to give you plenty of notice to make any necessary arrangements.
  • We understand you are busy people and will not hand over an incident if there is any risk.
  • We will provide the details of a KFRS officer who will be a point of contact to support you whilst the material burns down. They can also liaise with local fire crews who will then monitor the incident occasionally to confirm everything is okay.
  • In addition, an incident handover sheet to tell you about any issues you need to be aware of, such as what to do if the wind should change direction or speed.
Starting a new business

Have you included fire safety in financial plans for your business?

You may think that the cost of these measures is off-putting, but compared to the cost of shutting your business down, even temporarily, it makes sense to be prepared.

Why should you include fire safety in your financial planning?

Once you are aware of your responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 it will help you when looking for premises.

  • Check the lease or tenancy agreement - what are you responsible for?
  • Is everything suitable for the type of business you are starting or will you have to change or add anything? How will this impact on budgeting?
  • Make sure you understand the maintenance regimes - how often and by who?

You can do your research into the initial and ongoing costs and include it in your budget.

Your insurance provider will need to know that you have fulfilled your legal requirements. If you have not then your policy may be rendered invalid if you make a claim. 

Do you know what legislation requires you to do?

If you're becoming a business owner or have control over a business then you are probably regarded as a responsible person.

Under the Fire Safety Order the responsible person: "Has a duty to provide and maintain suitable and sufficient fire precautions and comply with the Fire Safety Order".    

What could happen if you do not comply?

You are commiting an offence and you could be putting people's lives at risk. We may inspect your premises as part of our responsibility to enforce the law. A customer or someone working for you may report you to us if they feel at risk. This could result in:

  • Enforcement
  • Legal fees/fines
  • Imprisonment
  • Loss of business
  • Loss of life

What is a fire risk assessment? 

It is a thorough look at your premises and the people who are likely to use them. It considers the risk of fire breaking out and what measures you need to put in place to prevent it and keep people safe.

In the UK during 2013-2014 there were:

  • over 22,000 fires in non-domestic buildings
  • 17 people killed and over 1,000 people injured

Complete your fire risk assessment 

STEP 1: Identify fire hazards
STEP 2: Identify people at risk
STEP 3: Evaluate, remove or reduce and protect from risk
STEP 4: Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
STEP 5: Review your fire risk assessment regularly

Bonfires and firework displays

Safety advice for organisers of bonfire displays - public or semi-public events

This advice has been prepared mainly to help organisers of public or semi-public bonfire displays to hold a safe event. 'Semi-public' could for example be the garden of a public house. Also much of the guidance will be useful to organisers of smaller displays.

Before the display

It is important to plan well ahead and to involve the organisations listed below as early as possible. One way of doing this is to set up an organising committee where each member has responsibility for a particular task. One person should be placed in charge of the safety arrangements. If possible, at least one member of the committee should have previous experience of organising a bonfire display. Each member should have a clear understanding of their duties.

These duties include:

  • ensuring that the bonfire is built safely
  • keeping the public at a safe distance
  • making sure that the bonfire is extinguished safely
  • making sure that there are suitable phones in place for emergency use and calling the emergency services, if necessary
  • the organisers of the event should also ensure that there is adequate insurance to cover personal injury and damage. Any traders on site should have their own insurance
  • there is a suitable Fire Risk Assessment

Consultation

In some places it may be helpful to warn other people, farmers on nearby farms or occupiers of nearby residential, commercial or industrial premises, who may be affected.

Stewards and stewarding

It is important to have enough stewards, and for them to be suitably trained by a competent person, to ensure the safety of the people attending. There should be one steward to every 250 (or part of 250) people present, in addition more stewards may be needed to cover each entrance/exit and to carry out the duties listed below. The actual number should be agreed in advance with the police and the local council.

Organisers should consider carefully what they will need the stewards to do.

Duties may include:

  • acting as car park attendants
  • providing information
  • monitoring the bonfire area
  • keeping spectators behind barriers
  • ensuring that nothing is thrown onto the bonfire and that it does not spread
  • managing the public (particularly if alcohol is present)
  • calling and liaising with the emergency services
  • collecting rubbish
  • clearing up after the bonfire
  • making sure that the bonfire is extinguished

Stewards should be more than 18 years old and readily identifiable, for example by wearing a fluorescent jacket. They should be constantly watching for problems in the crowd, such as disorderly behaviour or emergencies. A Steward should know who is in charge of the event and should have a means of contacting them - a two-way radio at large events. They should know the location of phones for emergency use. They should stay until the event is over and make sure that the site is safe to be left.

Access to and exit from the site

There should be a suitable entrance, or entrances, for emergency vehicles previously agreed with the emergency services and kept clear of obstruction until the event is over. Emergency vehicles should be met by the person in charge of safety or a Senior Steward on arrival.

In enclosed areas, e.g. those with a fence, enough entrances and exits of adequate width, including emergency exits; should be provided to allow spectators to enter in an orderly manner and to leave easily at the end of the display. The needs of any spectators with disabilities should also be considered.

Warning signal

Organisers and stewards should have a pre-arranged coded signal to warn them that an emergency has developed and that help is required. The signal should be heard throughout the site but it should not cause panic amongst the spectators. At larger events a public address system may be used, and at smaller displays loud hailers could be used.

Position of the bonfire

It should be sited in a clear unenclosed space at a safe distance, preferably not less than 18 metres; from buildings, trees, wooden fences, overhead cables, car parking areas or firework displays which have already been set up. Where there is less space available the organiser is advised to consult the fire service.

There should be no combustible materials nearby, such as stacks of timber, hay, straw etc. which can be set alight accidentally or by people behaving irresponsibly. The prevailing wind direction must be taken into account when deciding the position of the bonfire. It should not blow towards the spectators or combustible materials.

It should be built in an area which has been cleared of undergrowth and where any surrounding grass has been cut short. In dry weather, the site should also be dampened down. The top layer of turf should be removed and stored away from the bonfire so that it can be replaced when the site is cold. Any debris left over from preparing the site should also be placed well away from the bonfire. Bonfires should not be built on peat, as peat fires can spread underground and emerge some distance away.

The bonfire should be carefully guarded before the event so that it cannot be set alight deliberately and to prevent children or animals using it as a den or shelter.

Bonfire construction

The bonfire should not contain any potentially hazardous materials which may explode or give off toxic fumes, such as:

  • aerosols
  • batteries
  • bottles
  • foam-filled furniture
  • tins of paint

Tyres should not be used as they produce large amounts of black smoke and can roll off the bonfire when alight. Also, materials producing light ash which could blow about, such as corrugated cardboard, should not be used.

The bonfire should be kept to a manageable size, the maximum height normally being six metres, preferably no more than three metres at semi-public events. It should be evenly built so that it collapses inwards as it burns. There should also be a suitable barrier around the bonfire, at a distance of not less than 1.5 times its height, to make sure that spectators are kept far enough away.

Planning for bad weather

Organisers will need to make plans in case of bad weather, including what to do if the bonfire cannot go ahead. Rain can dampen down the bonfire and fill the area with smoke, and can also encourage the use of highly flammable liquids, such as petrol, which must be avoided. Strong winds can result in flying brands from the bonfire reaching greater distances, in which case the barriers around the bonfire may need to be moved further back.

Lighting the bonfire

The display should start and finish at the advertised times. The bonfire should not normally be lit before any firework display unless the firework display is sufficiently far away to make sure that stray sparks from the bonfire cannot fall into the firework area.

The bonfire should be supervised by a competent person, whose responsibilities will include checking before the bonfire is lit that its construction is still sound, that there are no children or animals inside, and that hazardous items such as aerosols, fireworks etc have not been thrown onto it. The bonfire should not be lit by children or left unattended, and nothing should be cooked on it.

Flammable liquids such as petrol, diesel, methylated spirit or white spirit should never be poured onto the bonfire to light it or revive it. These liquids can cause a bonfire to flare up unexpectedly, or can cause an explosion from a build-up of their fumes, or the stream of liquid (if poured) can burn back to the person holding the container.

Damp bonfires should be lit by using dry kindling, e.g. newspaper, sacking, empty wooden boxes etc.

These materials should be placed inside the bonfire and will help it to burn from the inside out, drying out any damp materials stacked on the outside. Fuses can be made out of long, twisted rags soaked in used engine oil or paraffin. They should be trailed from the inside of the bonfire to a pre-determined lighting point outside. Alternatively, domestic firelighters can be used.

Suitable clothing should be worn by anyone who has to go near the bonfire. For example, a substantial overcoat of wool or other of low flammability material, a hood (if provided), long trousers (worn over any boots) and gloves. Avoid wearing long scarves which could trail.

If the bonfire becomes uncomfortable as it progresses, spectators should be able to move away freely from smoke, sparks and heat, without being trapped by the crowd.

Extinguishing the bonfire

At the end of the event, the bonfire should be extinguished with water and it should not be left until the steward responsible and the person in charge of safety is certain that it is out.

Signing off

If any emergency organisations are present at the display (fire service, police, first aid etc), the organiser should "sign off" with them at the end of the event.

The Health and Safety At Work Etc. Act 1974 and Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Organisers of public or semi-public displays should be aware of the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which place a responsibility on them to ensure the safety of both employees and members of the public.

For further guidance, please refer to the Fire Safety Guide for Open Air Events and Venues or contact our business safety team.

Advice for landlords

Fire safety advice for landlords, managing agents and owners of houses in multiple occupation and other social housing

Fire safety within the home is an extremely important issue, especially in mixed use premises and where unrelated occupiers, who live independently from one another, share common areas of the same building. This area of law is covered by both the Housing Act 2004 and for the common areas, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Kent Fire and Rescue would encourage all those with an interest in these types of premises to read the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) guidance linked below to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities to carry out a fire risk assessment, and make sure their property has adequate and appropriate fire safety measures in place.

Guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing - joint publication with LACORS

Preparing your business for an emergency

Dealing with an emergency

Preparation is essential

In the event of an incident, our friendly and helpful staff in the control room that receive 999 calls will ask you some questions to find out why you need us, so below are some things you can gather and prepare if in the event of an emergency that you need us.

Ensure that you shut all doors and call 999

If you are a premises with a fire detection system connected to a central alarm station, do not solely rely on them to call the fire and rescue service. It is better to receive multiple calls from a number of people than depend on the central alarm station calling 999.

  • Information you will need to provide
  • What is the address of the incident?
  • What is the best access to the address (is there a different post code leading to a separate alternative entrance)?
  • What is the premises type (e.g. sheltered housing, residential care home, extra care housing)
  • What is the incident type (i.e. what is on fire)?
  • Where is the fire within the premises (the room / flat number / specific location)?
  • Are there access codes to enter the property?
  • How many residents are within the premises?
  • Has an evacuation procedure started – if so, how many people have been evacuated and how many remain within the premises?
  • Are there bed bound patients / residents or those that need additional support to evacuate?
  • Where are the residents located within the building that are potentially trapped?
  • Are any of the residents bed bound and unable to self-evacuate? Are staff on site doing this presently?

Helping us when we arrive 

On our arrival, your help is key. Have your grab bag to hand and ensure that the detailed floor plans are easily accessible. This will help the crews form a plan of action. The officer in charge will want to be met by the person in charge of the premises at that time so they can ask further questions and help as efficiently as possible.

Preparing an emergency grab bag

What is a grab bag?

Grab bags, also known as grab packs are a very useful tool for your business and Kent Fire and Rescue Service when there is an incident at your premises.

A grab bag should contain items that are essential to recovering or continuing your business which will aid with business continuity should you need to evacuate in the event of an emergency.You should ensure it contains vital information that will assist your business and Kent Fire and Rescue Service, and will help inform you and us of procedures and processes during an emergency or evacuation of your premises.

Every business is unique and your Grab Bag should be too. Your Grab Bag should be easily accessible, easy to carry and located on the route of escape and taken with you when you evacuate the premises.

What should a grab bag contain?

Assembling your grab bag is a simple task and something you will be able to assemble yourselves. Here is a general guide containing some of the items you could include in a grab bag so that you are prepared in the event of an emergency:

  • an emergency checklist
  • a clear plan (ideally laminated to protect against the elements) of the premises, including: fire escape routes, fire safety measures such as detection and lighting, service isolation points (gas, water, electricity). sprinkler stop valves, location of ventilation switches (if installed).
  • your emergency evacuation procedure (inclusive of personal emergency evacuation plans and highlighting any mobility issues of users)
  • space keys and access codes
  • an emergency contacts list
  • a notepad and pen in a waterproof casing
  • hi-visibility vests that can be worn by the person in charge / fire marshals
  • a small first aid kit (ensure the contents are kept in date) and medical gloves
  • first aid ‘energy food’ such as glucose tablets
  • torch and spare batteries
  • glow sticks
  • emergency blankets
  • walkie talkies (these may be next to the kit as they will need to be charged)
  • whistle
  • drinking water
  • USB / memory drives with critical business information to aid with continuity (remember to update regularly).

Remember, the above list is a general recommendation and is not exhaustive. Every business is different and your grab bag contents should reflect your needs.

Preparing external strong boxes

What is a strong box?

Strong boxes, also known as an emergency document safe, can save vital seconds in the event of an emergency. Kent Fire and Rescue Service can utilise these strong boxes when arriving on your site to obtain critical information that will assist us when deciding on the course of action we will take.

The information stored within these boxes will vary from business to business, however, they could contain information to aid us with access into the premises, such as door codes, and provide vital details about the most vulnerable people that may be on site. The strong box may contain any tools that may be required to be used in the premises to access areas or shut off facilities such as keys or electronic fobs.

Fire crews can plan their strategies from the information that is contained in the emergency document safe and allows us to make faster decisions that could save lives and property. It is important to ensure these boxes are accessible and recognisable at all times and are located on an external part of the building. You can also inform us of the location of the safe so we are aware of its position upon arrival.

What should a strong box contain?

Creating the documentation that would be useful is something that you would be able to achieve yourself; simply see below for some of the possible items you could prepare and place within a strong box: 

  • Detailed premises plan (ideally laminated to protect against the elements) to include fire escape routes, fire safety measures such as detection and emergency lighting and location of fire extinguishers.
  • Information on service isolation points (gas, water, electricity) sprinkler stop valves, the location of ventilation switches (if installed).
  • Emergency evacuation procedure details (inclusive of personal emergency evacuation plans and highlighting any mobility issues of users)
  • Space keys and access codes
  • An emergency contacts list

Remember, the above list is a general recommendation and is not exhaustive. Every business is different and your strong box contents should reflect your needs.

Fire emergency evacuation plans

Every business, no matter its size, should have a comprehensive fire emergency evacuation plan. The plan should be a written document that covers the actions of staff members in the event of a fire and the arrangements for calling the fire and rescue service.

The plan should highlight the following areas: 

  • How people will be warned in the event of a fire
  • How the building will be evacuated
  • Where the emergency escape routes lead to
  • Assembly point/s and final place of safety
  • Who is responsible for calling the emergency services
  • The position and provision of firefighting equipment
  • The added responsibilities of identified people in the event of a fire (i.e. fire marshals)
  • Provisions for the evacuation of people especially at risk (contractors, visitors, those with disabilities)
  • (if applicable) PEEPs (Personal Emergency Evacuation Procedure)
  • Who is responsible for communicating with the fire and rescue service upon their arrival
  • The location of isolation points (water, electrics, gas)
  • Who would be responsible for any shut down procedures (such as machinery or appliances) and special arrangements (i.e. removal of cylinders)
  • The training required to achieve the above points

Your plans should be simple to understand. Consider what the procedures are for those that discover a fire and for those that hear an alarm.

Remember, your plans should reflect your evacuation strategy.

Finally, if your building is large, complex or across multiple floors it is wise to have a floor plan which highlights your escape plan. It is advisable to have logos on the plan to show the fire exits, assembly point/s, firefighting equipment and fire alarm items such as the panel, call points and detectors. It is also key to highlight stairs, fire doors and if you are aware of the buildings structure, mark where the compartmentation walls are.

Business protection portal

Find out if your business is at risk

Businesses in Kent can now risk assess and protect their premises, procedures, and staff via the new Business Protection Portal - the first system of its kind among fire services in the UK.

If you own or run a business, our Business and Property Protection Portal is here to help assess the risks and protect your premises and staff. From fire to flooding, unoccupied buildings and more, the Portal provides relevant safety documentation from a broad insurance database, using your business postcode to identify specific safety risks in an area

Working with the Fire Protection Association we've created a digital one-stop shop for companies in Kent looking to safeguard their livelihood against a multitude of hazards.

After just a few clicks, the system analyses the type of business and geographical location and pulls together a comprehensive downloadable document with recommendations and next steps.

It’s a quick and easy way to identify hazards before they become an issue, and with this tool, it’s never been easier to keep your business safe.

Business portal - How to from Kent Fire Rescue on Vimeo.

*Bob's cafe is a fictitious business created to show how to use the portal in the video guide.

Please note: the report generated by the Business Protection Portal does not replace a fire risk assessment for your business - it is a guide to help you determine what you should consider including as a risk and a reminder to think about business continuity issues should a disruption happen.