Warning: don’t let COVID-19 safeguards impact your fire safety plans

Businesses in Westside have been urged to make sure that COVID-19 precautions do not increase fire risks at their properties.

The warning has been issued by West Midlands Fire Service during what is the UK’s Business Safety Week 2020.

It follows concerns from the National Fire Chiefs Council that organisations’ legitimate focus on being ‘COVID secure’ could compromise fire safety arrangements – putting staff, visitors and premises at risk.

Group Commander Steve Ball, of West Midlands Fire’s fire safety team, explained that business owners should review their fire risk assessments, taking account of any new measures introduced to limit the spread of coronavirus.

He said: “While all of our efforts are rightly focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19, we also need to do all we can to stop the spread of fire and, should one break out, that people are safe and can escape.

“Having an up-to-date fire risk assessment is the first step towards protecting your business from fire. And, for those who need extra support, we’re here to advise on how to keep your business in business – including how not to fall victim to arsonists.”

Group Commander Ball urged businesses to ensure that:

  • COVID-19 protective screens don’t obstruct smoke detection;
  • fire doors are kept shut to stop fire spreading, and not propped open to improve air flow;
  • they have enough trained staff to support evacuation procedures;
  • social distancing arrangements don’t impede evacuation plans; and
  • escape routes are maintained, with extra attention to any one-way systems introduced to counter COVID-19.

Westside BID general manager Mike Olley said: “Fire safety is such a vital concern for any business, so it is especially important that we do not lose sight of that while having to focus on precautions around coronavirus.

“We at the BID fully support the fire service’s message for businesses to have an up to date fire risk assessment, and to follow the advice they have laid out.” For more advice, including how to review fire risk assessment, visit www.wmfs.net/our-services/fire-safety/, email the fire safety team at firesafety.admin@wmfs.net or call 0121 380 7500.

By Tony Collins

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