Written by Brian Fagan, General Manager, Middle East, Warringtonfire

Fire safety design and life safety systems are only effective if they are managed, maintained and tested over the entire life cycle of a building.

Depending on building size and complexity, the responsibilities for building management can either reside with a single defined individual or with a number of managers or staff. The effective management of building fire safety contributes to the safety of occupants by:

  • working to prevent fires occurring e.g. housekeeping, regular building maintenance, security, etc.
  • staff being aware of the types of people in the building and any special requirements
  • ensuring that the means of escape are always available
  • ensuring that all of the fire safety systems are kept in working order
  • undertaking periodic fire risk assessments
  • training staff and organizing an effective evacuation plan

The above measures are only achieved if procedures are documented and staff are adequately trained. There are a number of fire safety tools which should be used for this process including; a fire safety manual, an emergency response plan, and fire safety audits.

What is a Fire Safety Manual?

A Fire Safety Manual should not only contain design information, but also operational records for a building. The fire safety manual starts with the original design information for the building and is updated regularly to provide an ongoing history during the building’s life.

Provision also needs to be made for recording the results of monitored test evacuations, tests of the fire safety systems, and any other relevant information.

The fire safety manual should be made available for inspection or testing by auditors or regulators and for operational purposes by the local fire service. The Fire Safety Manual should also:

  • provide a full description of the assumptions and philosophies that led to the fire safety design, including explicit assumptions regarding the management of the building, housekeeping and other management functions
  • explain the nature of the fire safety planning, construction and systems designed into the building, and their relationship to the overall safety and evacuation management
  • draw on the documentation produced at the design stage to describe the use of the various protection systems and the responsibilities of the staff

How to create an Emergency Response Plan

Local building codes generally require an Emergency Response Plan to be developed for high-rise, complex, or high-hazard buildings. An emergency response plan should include:

  • procedures for reporting emergencies
  • ·occupant and staff response to emergencies
  • evacuation procedures appropriate to the building, its occupancy, and emergencies
  • suitability of the use of elevators
  • design and conduct of fire drills
  • type and coverage of building fire protection systems
  • ·other items as required by local authorities / regulations

Zone charts should also be provided on all floors showing the location of fire zones, the type and location of all initiating devices on each floor and a ‘YOU ARE HERE’ indicator using colors and symbols.

The emergency response plan should be updated intermittently or when there is a change of use or building design.

What to Know about Fire Safety Audits

Fire safety audits help to ensure that fire safety procedures, fire prevention measures, and fire precautions (plans, systems and equipment) are all in place and working properly. Fire safety audits should be undertaken at least every six months.

The fire safety audit involves:

  • carrying out a detailed fire safety audit of the site and premises
  • reviewing egress routes and interior finishes in accordance with relevant codes and standards
  • reviewing fire safety measures in place, including egress routes, exit signage, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, and fire alarm systems
  • reviewing all documentation, including fire certificates, policies and procedures evacuation plans, maintenance records, and staff training and drills
  • providing a detailed Action Plan addressing all issues needing attention.The Action Plan should list the actions in three categories: immediate, short and long term

Managing fire safety is a holistic process and it is of critical importance that the fire safety manager is empowered and provided with sufficient resources to fulfil this function. It is the responsibility of the fire safety manager to ensure that, should a fire occur, the fire safety systems are fully functional and that staff procedures for dealing with an incident are in place. 

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