We’ve all done it – the fire alarms go off and you turn to your workmates and roll your eyes. Just another false alarm. Like you haven’t got enough to do without having to traipse out to the carpark for some pointless fire drill, right?
But what if it isn’t a drill this time? What if your building is actually on fire and you need to evacuate everyone NOW?
Well, this is exactly what happened at the flagship New Look store in London’s Oxford Street back in April 2007. The fire alarms went off, but nobody took any notice. Staff went on serving, customers went on browsing and buying clothes. That was until several minutes later, when passers-by started to shout warnings to people in the store that smoke was pouring from the upstairs windows.
Chaos then ensued, as the shop’s staff began to panic and evacuated all 150 customers through the main entrance, rather than the store’s designated fire exits. This led customers directly under the site of the blaze, which had taken hold in a second-floor storeroom.
By the time people were evacuated, they could feel the heat of the blaze and the fire had started blowing out windows, meaning many of the customers and staff were showered in glass as they exited the building.
Incredibly, nobody was hurt in the incident, but it took 30 fire engines and around 150 firefighters to bring the fire under control.
After the subsequent court case, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC fined New Look £250,000 for failing to supply a “suitable and sufficient” fire risk assessment for the premises, and £150,000 for failing to provide staff with adequate fire safety training. The retail giant was also ordered to pay more than £136,000 in costs.
So how can you ensure that you don’t fall foul of fire safety laws and land yourself in court? Well, carrying out a thorough fire risk assessment is the first step.
A fire risk assessment, carried out by a competent person, will flag up any potential fire safety risks in your premises. Just about every commercial premises in the country is legally obliged to carry out a fire risk assessment, and failure to do so can result in unlimited fines and up to two years in prison for the responsible person.
The fire risk assessment should also identify any fire safety training issues or shortcomings among staff and put an action plan in place to address them.
As a bare minimum, every member of staff should know where fire exits are in their building, and the safest routes to those exits. This level of fire safety training can be easy to achieve, simply by carrying out regular fire drills and showing people where they should be going and what they should be doing every time the fire alarms go off.
Comprehensive fire safety training should also cover things like how to handle a fire extinguisher and which fire extinguisher should be used for which type of fire. This kind of training should include a practical element to it, so staff can be confident in their actions when they come to use equipment such as a fire extinguisher.
It’s best to call in the Experts for your fire safety training
Ensuring your fire safety training is carried out by an FIA accredited provider like Expert Fire Solutions means you can be assured your staff are getting the right information from knowledgeable experts who know what they’re talking about.
Whether it’s a basic fire safety awareness course, or comprehensive fire marshal training, our fire safety training will give you and your staff the skills they need.