SFRS warns of fire danger caused by excess stock and materials

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The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is updating its advice to business owners and Dutyholders as Scotland moves into phase two of its exit from Lockdown.

The national service has already highlighted safety and awareness guidance to ensure that social distancing and protection measures do not impact on overall fire safety.

Now, the SFRS is keen to emphasise the risk that excess stock and packaging could increase fire risk where businesses order more in anticipation of a busy reopening period.

With many shops, factories and laboratories beginning to reopen, businesses and Dutyholders are being advised to ensure stock rooms and fire exits do not become blocked by surplus materials to allow for safe and easy passage in the event of an emergency or fire drill.

The SFRS is also asking premises owners and operators to look at the possibility of increasing waste collections to avoid overspill and to store stock safely and appropriately.

Alasdair Perry is the SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer for Prevention and Protection.

He said: "We've already seen some businesses and buildings reopen, but we understand for many this will be the first time they will have opened their doors for quite some time.

"This is an exciting and challenging time for those who are reopening and we don't want to add to any concerns people may already have, we'd simply remind people to manage their premises for excess stock and waste and to consider if this would increase the risk of a fire or hamper fire safety measures and escape plans.

"We would ask businesses and Dutyholders who do have excess stock or waste to please increase their collections and to store stock safely and securely to allow for safe and easy exit in the event of an emergency or fire drill.

"Ultimately, we would ask people to carry out a full review of their fire risk assessment across their premises as soon as possible."

The SFRS has previously stressed the importance of considering if steps taken to protect staff from the spread of COVID-19 may impact on fire detection or fire safety measures.

For example, measures to keep people safe from the spread of COVID-19 - such as plastic screens to support social distancing - could hamper fire safety measures including sprinklers or smoke detectors.

 And while it is important to observe the two-metre social distancing rule wherever possible during the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that people always exit a building as quickly and safely as possible, using all available means of escape in the event of a fire.

Any external queuing systems in place outside of businesses should also be designed to ensure they do not hamper the ability of emergency services to access a building when required to do so - quickly.

A thorough fire safety risk assessment should be carried out as soon as possible by all businesses and dutyholders, says Alasdair Perry, the SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer for Prevention and Protection.

"During the last few months many of these workplaces will have understandably and correctly taken measures to protect staff from the spread of COVID-19,” he commented.

 "However, we wold urge all dutyholders to consider if these measures, including the installation of plastic screening, could have any impact on their fire detection or fire safety measures.

"For example, it is possible that screening installation, along with any increased loading or materials in the premises, may obstruct automatic fire detection apparatus such as smoke alarms.

"We would also ask businesses to please manage any external queuing systems safely and effectively to ensure safe access for emergency service vehicles."

DACO Perry continued: We realise social distancing is in place, but in the event of a fire alarm activation or emergency, the message remains to exit the building safely, quickly and by the nearest available exit.

"Evacuation strategies affected by staffing levels should be revisited to ensure they are still robust and adequate staff numbers exist to support any evacuation of people from a building, including residents."

The SFRS is also keen to reach out to those who operate holiday rentals or receive paying guests where demand may significantly increase due to restrictions on foreign travel.

DACO Perry explained: "With the threat of COVID-19 ongoing, there's a strong possibility more people will choose to holiday at home this year.

"We're therefore asking those who rent out properties to ensure their fire safety risk assessment is up to date, that those visiting are kept safe and aware of what fire safety measures are in place and they know what to do in the event of a fire.

"These have been trying times for the whole country, but we cannot become complacent and must continue to work together to drive down the risk of fire across Scotland."

For more advice on fire risk assessment or to speak with an officer, contact the SFRS via /your-safety/for-businesses/contact-your-local-fire-safety-enforcement-office.aspx

Further guidance is available from the Fire Industry Association

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