Three people were rescued from a roof during a fire in Bedford town centre on the 6th April. There is an investigations being conducted to find out how the fire started. We are not suggesting any one has done anything wrong in this scenario but such a situation does make us mindful of creating the right emergency plan and ensuring significant fire escapes from every area.
Fire Risk Assessments
An effective fire risk assessment and the relevant building regulations will ensure you know how many exits you should have and the best positioning and widths according to the likely numbers of people, but the basic point to remember is that there should be two potential exits for any space just in case one becomes obstructed.
This gets more complicate the lower down or higher up you get as this fire in Bedford highlights. Again, this is where the fire risk assessment comes into play. Are there any reasonable adjustments that you can make to ensure a better chance of escape? Escape routes should be protected by fire doors that prevent toxic smoke and flames spreading into the area to buy any escapees more time. Lifts should not be used in an emergency so are there provisions in place to assist any visitors or employees with wheelchairs? If they cannot get out directly there should be protected places for them to wait for rescue or special chairs that can be purchased to make carrying them up or down stairs easier. Is it practical and safe to add something to the external of the building to assist people down or across to another building? There is even a parachute in development for people who work 100 feet or higher in skyscrapers called the SOS parachute.
Communication With Emergency Services
An important part of the emergency plan is to ensure the emergency services are alerted to the fire. If there is a chance of people getting trapped in the building or on top of it in this Bedford example then it is all the more important that the fire services are alerted as early as possible. Does your fire alarm link to the fire service automatically? Does your emergency plan designate someone to call 999? Is there someone designated to meet the fire service when they arrive and tell them where people are or might be trapped?
Have you covered all scenarios in your fire risk assessment and emergency plan. If you are not sure that you have then we are on hand to assist in the creation.