Whether you’re planning an outdoors extravaganza, using your existing events venue, or erecting a marquee to host in, fire safety has to be one of your top concerns.
The easiest way to ensure you have everything in place, just in case, is to carry out a fire risk assessment of the venue. This will take account of all the potential hazards that exist and enable you to take action which will reduce those risks as much as practically possible.
Not just a requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, a fire risk assessment will keep staff and attendees safe and help your next event go off without a hitch. This is something any competent person can carry out, and thankfully, it isn’t too difficult either.
Spot the Hazards
The first step in a fire risk assessment of your venue is to walk around the area and make a note of all the potential hazards. This will include all sources of ignition (a thing which could start a fire), and fuel sources (a thing which burns).
Generators, heaters, electrical and gas equipment, cooking appliances, naked flames, and cigarettes are examples of objects and actions which could cause a fire to begin.
When it comes to what can burn, this will likely include paper, cardboard, fabric, rubbish, alcohol, flammable liquids and gases.
Knowing this will enable you to put in place provisions, such as keeping the noted items well away from each other, which will make it harder for a fire to begin in the first place.
Consider Those in Attendance
When it comes to thinking about the people who could be present during a fire, you need to think about those working the event and not just those attending. That will also include the attendants, cleaners, cooks, security, and the main attractions.
You then need to think about those who are likely to need a helping hand, or have special requirements, when it comes to making an emergency exit. The elderly and disabled may have mobility issues which you’ll need to consider, as will any children who are present.
The maximum capacity of your event is something which also needs real consideration, as it isn’t just a case of how many people you can squeeze into one area.
The size, number and position of fire exits will determine the number of maximum numbers as everyone should be able to make an emergency exit in under 150 seconds. For instance, each exit with a width of 1.05 metres will accommodate up to 160 people, so three on different sides of the venue would, in theory, allow up to 480. An exit width of 1.65m allows up to 240 people, and a width of 1.95m allows up to 320 people through each door.
Evaluate and Act
Now you can begin to put preparations in place which make a fire less likely, and prepare you should a fire start at any time. This is likely to include confining smoking to just one area or ensuring rubbish is secured well away from buildings and erections to prevent arson.
In a dedicated events space, you’re probably already kitted out with a fire alarm system which will detect a fire and then raise the alarm, and emergency lighting so people can find their way to safety whatever happens. All you need to do is ensure it is regularly tested and maintained.
In an outdoor space or temporary venue, you’re unlikely to have such provisions in place. Instead, you’ll need an alternative method of raising the alarm, such as a traditional fire bell, air horn, megaphone, or PA system.
Your venue will need at least one water-based extinguisher, such as a water, water additive, or foam (three litres or more) extinguisher for every 200 square metres of floor space. On top of that, you’ll need fire extinguishers for specific threats, such as a CO2 for electrical items and a wet chemical for cooking oils and fats. Fire blankets are ideal for cooking areas too.
The fire extinguishers cannot be left on the floor. In a building, they need to be mounted on the wall or on fire extinguisher stands, and outdoors in cabinets to protect them from the elements.
It’s also important that people only need to travel to one point in an emergency where they can grab a fire extinguisher and raise the alarm.
Plan, Train, and Record
Almost everything is in place now, so you need to bring it all together with a fire action plan. Where does everyone assemble? What’s the best route? Who calls the fire brigade? What should staff/contractors do?
The number of attendants also affects the maximum capacity of your venue, with the general rule being one for every 250 adults. Not only do you need to ensure you have enough attendants present, but they also need to have received the correct training.
Just like you’ll have members of staff trained in first aid, dedicated fire wardens need to have received the right training. This will prepare them for an emergency so they can keep a cool head and take the safest course of action.
The training prepares them as best as possible, as well as giving them the knowledge to help you in promoting good fire safety at work. It is also their duty to take charge of evacuations and to lead fire drills.
A fire drill should be carried out every six months to test how effective your plan is as, after all, it’s best to find out before it’s too late.
A fire risk assessment is never finished as it needs to be reviewed regularly. Generally, fire services recommend this is carried out annually, although it will need to reflect any changes in layout or operations.
You’ll need one for every temporary location to counteract any unique traits a new venue may bring, and even small differences can have a cumulative effect.
Failure to comply can bring a hefty fine or even a prison sentence, and it is advisable that you contact your local licensing authority for any special guidelines which they will expect you to follow.
The fire risk assessment is ultimately the responsibility of the owner but can be carried out with the help of a competent person. For peace of mind, many people choose to hire a professional fire risk assessor to complete it on their behalf, to ensure that no risk is overlooked.
To find out more information about fire risk assessments and the fire safety equipment you need at your next event, visit www.fireprotectiononline.co.uk.