in response to the pandemic, including how premises are used, staffed and managed, do not adversely impact on fire safety.

This is true whether the business is open and operating, or if operations have been temporarily closed.

In line with the Government’s three-tier structure, the complexity of managing this in a highly volatile environment is challenging, especially as FMs continue to be stretched in resource, time capacity and increasingly budget with the difficult economic climate.

Maintenance challenges and fire

safety solutions Throughout the pandemic one of the biggest challenges for FMs in ensuring a safe premises, has been access. This is especially true in the realms of fire safety.

Whilst in theory, the risk of fire when there are less people in a facility may seem lower. In practice, under normal circumstances, however, those same people regularly take steps to reduce the risk of fire. Given the changed circumstances caused by the pandemic, people may also be taking actions that can actually increase the risk of fire.

For example, one of the things that FMs need to consider now, more than pre-pandemic, is the use of hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants. We have known for years that these products kill germs, but these substances also carry a risk. To be effective, hand sanitisers should have an alcohol content above 60-70%, as recommended by the CDC.

Surface disinfectants, which also contain high levels of alcohol, are technically classified as a Class 1 flammable liquid. This means that at room temperature, they can easily ignite.

There are also external risks associated with increasing vacant buildings as fewer workers return to office environments. FMs should assess a susceptibility to arson and produce a specific risk assessment covering areas such as waste collection, access to the building, who might be coming and going and removing ignition sources.

Fire alarms, physical security, fire door inspections and sprinkler systems should all form part of any risk assessment leading industry bodies such as BAFE and Fire Industry Association (FIA) has updated guidance on installation, service and maintenance requirements on and obligations on premises management.

The need to monitor emergency lighting to ensure a safe and timely escape is critical, even in the event of a powercut. Weekly or monthly light flick tests, even for an empty property ensure the integrity of the system is maintained.

Overall, with a reduced work force there may be an increased likelihood of people working alone within buildings; FMs need to ensure that these people are provided with adequate warning in case of fire so they do not become trapped.

Fire safety solutions Whether buildings are in use or not, all fire maintenance checks must be up to date. Failure to do so can result in fines and potential litigation for businesses. Systems need to be maintained, inspected, and tested regularly.

Amthal is working closely with facilities managers to provide initial support and guidance to ensure staff and premises remain safe throughout this challenging and rapidly evolving period.

From operating in a social distanced capacity to ensuring all necessary PPE is worn, Amthal has been functioning throughout the pandemic as a key worker to ensure a constant review of premises fire risk assessments. This includes citing whether any changes made to customer’s premises or staff to control the spread of COVID-19 are managed and mitigated. Any significant changes have been identified and recorded in a Fire Risk Assessment.

In summary, the risk of fires and other emergencies has not disappeared in the midst of the pandemic. It’s imperative that measures remain in place to adequately protect staff and visitors from these potential threats, even at a time when they’re not necessarily at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Extra precautions, awareness of new hazards, both on an internal and external basis, together with an adherence to an inspections and maintenance schedule will ensure that a facility will be safe and operational for years to come, even if its use or capacity has changed.

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, Amthal is committed to supporting businesses and facilities managers ongoing with the resources, systems and solutions required to help minimise the fire risk.

Independently owned, Amthal Fire & Security is dedicated to satisfying end user needs for security safety and convenience offering design, installation, service and remote monitoring of advanced electronic fire and security solutions, including intruder, fire, access and CCTV systems.

Amthal Fire & Security is accredited by the Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB) United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) and British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE). TOMORROW’S FM | 41

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