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East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo

COVID-19: Business Fire Safety Advice

Date : 05 April 2020

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Despite the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) it is important for businesses to continue carrying out duties relating to fire safety in their premises.

All businesses should therefore review their fire risk assessment and Emergency Procedures/Plans in light of the impact COVID-19 may be having on their staffing levels, operating times, business processes and evacuation arrangements.

Further information on fire risk assessments can be found on the Safer Businesses website pages.

If you’ve had to close your business

If your premises are closed for an extended period of time, there are some key steps you can take in order to reduce the risk of fire: 

  • Keep all entrances and exits clear. Rubbish and commercial bins should be emptied and secured away from any buildings.
  • Turn off all electrical devices where possible and remove plugs from sockets.
  • Where possible, do not store excessive amounts of stock in a hazardous manner.
  • Ensure your premises are secure and continue with your usual measures to prevent the risk from arson.
  • Public dropping off charitable donations at your premises should be regularly monitored and cleared to reduce the risk from arson. 

If no staff are currently using the building, the premises should be checked regularly to ensure that security measures are in place and have not been compromised. Any issues should be reported to Crimestoppers by contacting 0800 555 111. 

Where a fire warning and detection system at your premises is linked to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) they should be advised the premises are currently empty. Confirm with your ARC that they have current up-to-date details of managers, in case of fire alarm activations, so they can attend and manage the alarm system following any activations. 

If your building is connected to a domestic dwelling and you have a shared alarm system, you must ensure that regular testing is still arranged regularly. 

If your business is still operating

All existing, new or temporary staff should receive robust fire safety awareness and training. Staff should be made aware of potential hazards and risks, particularly if staffing levels have been reduced, or where staff may be working alone or in an isolated environment: 

  • Ensure that fire alarm systems and emergency exits are still accessible and that the alarm can be raised in the event of an emergency.
  • Continue with testing and maintenance of fire safety measures in place.
  • Keep ignition sources and combustible materials separate, where possible. If stockpiling has been necessary, due to the current external factors, then additional measures may be required.
  • Do not hold fire doors open unless provided with a suitable approved hold open device that operate on activation of the fire alarm system. 

Healthcare premises 

During this time staffing levels in care homes must be maintained, where possible, to ensure emergency plans can be effectively managed and staff should constantly monitor the situation in your premises. 

If staffing levels are currently affected by COVID-19, care homes should review their fire risk assessment and emergency plan. If enough staff are not available to support the care homes evacuation strategy, the care home should consult with their fire risk assessor or Primary Authority Partner if these are in place. 

Where staged evacuation arrangements are in place, such as progressive horizontal evacuation for example, then these need to be supported by appropriate staffing levels in place. 

ESFRS has produced a DVD entitled `Fire Safety in Care Homes` which can be requested from your local Business Safety Offices, which remain monitored during this current situation. 

If a fire does occur in your premises you must ensure the fire service is called at the earliest stage and confirmation provided to inform the operator that evacuation is taking place. 

Acute health care premise 

The government is taking extraordinary actions to assist dealing with the COVID-19 virus outbreak, which includes action to increase hospital bed spaces in existing health care facilities across the country. 

You must review your fire risk assessment and contact your local Business Safety office, prior to making changes to accommodate an increase in hospital bed spaces, installing temporary partitions or making changes to the internal layout of your premises.

Safer Businesses Training Program

Whilst we are not running our site based Business Safety Courses during the COVID-19 Pandemic, we do have a free online course which you can register and do at any time.


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