How to Observe Fire Safety Whilst Being Socially Distant

With so many businesses having returned to work since the lockdown restrictions eased, safety is at the forefront of all employers’ minds.  Because social distancing measures need to be adhered to, other health and safety measures need to be adapted in order to ensure that every person stays safe in the event of an emergency. Fire safety protocols must still be observed, and with some careful planning, need not be compromised.

Here are some guidelines on how to conduct and adapt Fire Safety procedures with social distancing in mind.

Now we’re back to work…

Business Managers and Owners will have assessed the safe return of employees and may just be operating with a skeleton staff or staggered work pattern.  Many have had to reduce the number of staff on the premises at any one time so that social distancing can be enforced.

Just because employee numbers may be down, the fire risks are still the same.  Therefore, if you are an employer, owner, landlord, occupier, or anyone else with control of the premises, this makes you the ‘responsible person’. If there’s more than one of you, you must work together to meet your responsibilities.

If your staff have been away for a while, they may wish to take a short refresher course in fire safety, whilst new staff members will need to undergo a fire safety induction.  It is important to keep all staff informed of any change in your fire safety arrangements, whether they are working on site or at home.

Fire drills in a socially distant workplace

Fire drills remain vitally important in the workplace.  If there have been changes made (either with new or different staff members, or with the fabric of the surroundings) in your workplace, then it is good practice to review your arrangements.  Are all fire exits still accessible? Are fire extinguishers still in date? Has there been a change in use in any of the rooms on the premises?

Your fire safety point might be in a small location, so new arrangements may need to be made to find a safe space with a larger capacity to ensure social distancing rules can be met.

So called ‘desktop drills’ are becoming more common, where an overview of evacuation procedures are provided to designated fire officers or the ‘responsible person’.  This, however may not account for the questions raised above, and cannot in all fairness be a good substitute for a physical fire drill.

Carrying out the drill

Before embarking on your drill, you should thoroughly review your current arrangements, based on the provision that your assembly point can accommodate the amount of people you have, at a social distance.  If it cannot, then it might be more sensible to create different, smaller zones, where lower numbers of people can congregate more safely.

Assign every employee to one of these new zones (taking into account those who might have mobility issues or disabilities), with a register for each.

Ensure that employees are instructed to leave the building in a calm but rapid fashion, observing social distancing rules as they go.

Do make sure that re-entry to the building is carried out in a sensible and safe way with each zone entering in turn to avoid ‘bottlenecking’ and crowding at the doors.

In the meantime…

Emergency services should only ever be called in the event of a real fire.  False alarms put undue pressure on the service as well as putting the health and safety of its operatives at risk unnecessarily.

Small fires can usually be tackled by a responsible person with an understanding of the fire extinguishers within your building.  Training in how to use fire extinguishers is a service that we provide here at Swift Fire & Safety, as well as offering fire risk assessments and other advice about general fire safety.

How can we Protect Ourselves from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Any appliance that burns fuel produces carbon monoxide, which means that carbon monoxide is produced in nearly every household across the country.  Unfortunately, it’s tasteless, colourless, odourless, and impossible for us as humans to detect.  Therefore, we rely on detectors to alert us if there are dangerous levels of carbon monoxide inside our homes or workplaces. If undetected, carbon monoxide fumes could poison us without us even realising. Long term, or concentrated exposure can be fatal.

What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when combustion fumes are inhaled.  The body replaces the oxygen in the red blood cells with carbon monoxide which prevents oxygen from reaching the tissues and organs.  When appliances (such as gas boilers for example) are improperly ventilated, particularly and especially in enclosed spaces, carbon monoxide can accumulate to dangerous levels.  This can result in headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, confusion, blurred vision, loss of consciousness and even death.

Who is most at risk from Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Exposure to carbon monoxide at any level can be particularly dangerous for the following demographic:

  • People with health conditions such as heart disease and breathing problems. They are far more susceptible to the effects of exposure and are likely to suffer with illnesses linked to carbon monoxide poisoning as opposed to a healthy person.
  • Unborn babies are at risk as foetal blood cells absorb carbon monoxide more easily than adult blood cells do. Young children take breaths more rapidly than adults, so are more at risk from poisoning.
  • Older adults who are exposed to carbon monoxide are more likely to develop brain damage than younger adults.

Precautions for Prevention

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your building whether it’s home or work.
  • Use gas appliance as manufacturers recommend; a gas stove or oven is not a means to heat your home! Camping equipment such as camp stoves are meant for the outdoors only, as are generators.
  • Ventilate your fuel burning appliances, such as space heaters, barbecues, water heaters, boilers, engines, generators. If you have a working fireplace, have the chimney or flue cleaned regularly (at least once a year).

How do carbon monoxide detectors work?

There are several types of detector, using either electrochemical sensors, biomimetic sensors, or metal oxide semiconductors. The presence of carbon monoxide in the air triggers an alarm on the device alerting people before levels reach a dangerous stage.

Where is the best location to install a detector?

Carbon monoxide detectors rely on correct placement to be effective. Installed in the wrong place, they could be rendered useless.

Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air, so distributes evenly through the atmosphere. For best results they should be positioned at least 5 feet above the floor, or 2 or 3 feet below the ceiling level.  To avoid false readings they should also be placed well away from windows and vents and fixed position fan and fan heaters, as these can all interfere with the accuracy of carbon monoxide level if it is present.  Can everyone in your house or building hear the alarm? Placing detectors near to bedrooms or sleeping quarters is imperative so that any sleeping people will be woken by the alarm should it be activated.  If you occupy more than one floor, then detectors will need to be installed on each floor.

If you have garages attached to your property then additional detectors need to be placed nearby.  Never leave your car running inside the garage, especially when the door is closed. Always open the door before starting the engine.

 

Here at Swift, we can offer advice on all your fire safety queries. You can find more information here, or call us on 01733 602955.

8 Reasons Why You Need To Install CCTV At Your Business Premises

With advances in technology in the last decade, there is no reason why all businesses shouldn’t have even the most basic security measures in place to protect the premises, its contents and its employees.  There are several different kinds of CCTV for many different budgets, but if you invest in a more modern system, the benefits will swallow the cost in no time!

The current COVID-19 situation means that many businesses are standing empty, or operating with skeleton staff, meaning that they are more exposed to theft or vandalism.  Until restrictions are lifted and businesses can begin operating as normal again, commercial premises across the country are far more vulnerable to criminals.

Protecting your business is paramount in such uncertain times, and security is key.  As government guidelines have told us to stay at home, remote security is a lifeline for business owners who are unable to attend their premises.  So why should you invest in a new CCTV system?  We identified 7 of the best reasons:

  1. Old analogue systems are outdated

You may be throwing good money after bad trying to maintain an older analogue system, due to the cost of upgrades and replacement parts.  The older the system, the more unreliable it will become meaning it could fail at a time when you most need it.

  1. It can record vast amounts of live footage

Imagine the cost involved in employing somebody to watch your security cameras all day every day!  IP CCTV records in real time, and its software will alert you if the alarm in your building is triggered by intruders.  This can save you time, money and hassle, as it gives you the ability to access footage at any given time, either as it is happening or retrospectively.  This footage is invaluable should any break in result in arrests and prosecution of the perpetrators in the future.  Of course, you also have the option to peruse footage just to check your building is safe and secure.

  1. The image quality is better

Modern CCTV image quality is far superior to analogue.  A clear crisp image is vital if you need to identify any criminals caught on camera.  Even if intruders are disguised, a sharper image could still help by identifying clothing brands or other small detail that an analogue system might not pick up.

  1. You can monitor remotely

The benefit of remote monitoring is that you can check on your cameras wherever you are, from your smart phone or other device, giving you the advantage to alert emergency services immediately should you need to.  If you travel with work, or lockdown rules are strengthened, then this can give you extra peace of mind if you’re not on hand to attend your premises when necessary.

  1. It’s easy to install

Once your cameras are insitu, you can download simple software to monitor them from any device, giving you peace of mind should your building be empty for any prolonged amount of time.  Extra cameras can be added in harder to see places or particularly vulnerable locations, either indoors or outdoors.  Viewing footage from multiple angles can prove valuable when trying to identify suspects!

  1. It’s cost effective

The cost of a new security system can seem like a lot of money to part with, but think of the benefits; CCTV can act as a deterrent to burglars which could save you the hassle of insurance claims and subsequent premium increases in the future.  A burglary doesn’t just impact on the loss of equipment and items, it’s also about the potential damage caused to your building, the interruption to your business should key equipment be stolen or damaged plus the emotional distress caused to you and your employees.  You may even find that your insurance premiums are lowered with the addition of an appropriate CCTV system.

  1. It’s reliable

Gone are the days when there would be one hard copy of footage, which could be rendered useless if it was damaged, or worse still, recorded over!  Today’s systems are durable as well as reliable and can be updated and adapted with ease, producing high resolution imaging, which can be accessed from anywhere at any time.

  1. It protects your staff

There could be times when your staff feel vulnerable at work, particularly if they’re there alone.  CCTV offers them comfort in knowing that they are always safe and monitored.  Likewise, your staff will conduct themselves professionally, knowing that their actions are being recorded!

Of course, there are Data Protection laws in force which forbid you from pointing cameras at the pavement, road or neighbouring properties.  Your Installation expert will advise you of the best position for your cameras without breaking the law!

 

If you would like more information on our CCTV systems and installation service, please click here.

Will the Coronavirus Affect the Crime Rate?

The world is experiencing one of the worst catastrophes imaginable. None of us are immune to the effect the Coronavirus is having and as the ripples spread far and wide and the infection rate rises, the strain on our public services is immense.  With clear instructions in place to help us to try and delay the spread of the disease, the impact on our social interaction with others seems devastating.  But those instructions are crucial if we are to suppress the infection spread, at least for the time being.

As of early March it was reported that the government had warned: ”Police forces will concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order if they suffer large staff absences during the outbreak of coronavirus”.  Basically this means that if you are burgled (classified as a low level crime), then it will be less likely for police officers to attend your scene, as the workforce could be stretched even further to cope with the absence of officers who are either infected with Covid-19 or who are in self-isolation. Potentially this could be a green light for many offenders wishing to take advantage of more ‘relaxed’ measures.  However, the reality is that people’s normal patterns of behaviour have been well and truly disrupted which could signal a reduction in the crime rate as more and more people are staying at home.

Unfortunately, crime isn’t just confined to physical acts.  Online crime is a real and present danger. At the end of February, online giant Amazon pulled over a million online items whose sellers were capitalising on the fear factor.  Counterfeit face masks and bogus virus cures were listed at highly inflated prices.  With our shops’ shelves being almost stripped bare of such items, as well as hand sanitisers and anti-bacterial products, worried consumers are being duped into paying these exorbitant prices for substandard and sometimes non-existent products.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve told talkRADIO that he thought that the economic hit of coronavirus could raise crime. He stated: “The issue that worries me is how, at the end of this, do we pick society up and will there be the number of casualties who will be so badly affected economically that that may contribute to a rise in the crime rate?”

What is certain, is that we are living through a time where we need to be vigilant in all aspects of our lives.  With so many people having to work from home now, the likelihood of burglary is greatly reduced with properties being occupied around the clock.  But it doesn’t mean we should be any less careful with our home security measures. Opportunists are just that – they may still target the old and vulnerable.

Likewise, many commercial premises are either standing empty or running with a skeleton staff.  It’s an absolutely crucial time to ensure that your premises are protected during the most uncertain time in generations.

 

For more information on our security services, click here.

How to Help Prevent a House Fire

The thought of fire breaking out in your home is a scary one.  It’s also statistically very unlikely to happen, but nevertheless it’s not impossible. But fear not, as there are plenty of steps you can take in order to minimise the risk of fire within your home.

 

  • Smoke detectors. You should test the batteries in your smoke alarms at least once a month.  Set yourself a reminder to do it, say, on the first of every month.  It takes seconds, and could potentially save your life.  Replace any dead batteries immediately.

 

  • Fire extinguishers. Having a well maintained extinguisher on hand in the event of a fire could be the difference between a small amount of smoke damage and the devastating loss of your home.  Your fire safety provider will advise you about the safest and most accessible places to store your extinguishers.

 

  • Heating maintenance. You should have your boiler serviced regularly, at least once a year.  By regular servicing, you’ll avoid too much build-up of dust and dirt within the appliance which could be a fire hazard.  If you use electric heaters make sure that they’re placed well away from anything that could catch fire.

 

  • Naked flames. Candles are the cause of a large percentage of house fires and most of these could be avoided if they weren’t left unattended.  If you have an open fire, always use a fire guard to avoid burning embers falling from the grate, or being ‘spat’ out.  Ensure you have your chimney swept regularly to avoid soot from building up – this could ignite and cause a chimney fire.

 

  • Close your doors. Fires will be unable to spread as quickly if the internal doors in your house are closed.  This could save your life, particularly at night time! More often than not, smoke will take victims before flames do, so every second counts.

 

  • Kitchen appliances. Most house fires start in the kitchen.  Hot pans can combust if they contain any kind of cooking fat.  Keep hobs clear of any debris, and never leave tea towels or cloths on them.  If you should have a pan fire, NEVER douse in water; a damp tea towel laid over the top will starve the fire of oxygen, and will be extinguished relatively quickly.  Ideally you should never leave your hob unattended whilst cooking.

 

  • Washing machines and tumble dryers. Clean the filters of your washing machine and tumble dryer regularly to avoid fluff and lint from building up.  Most fires that start in tumble dryers result from poor maintenance.

 

  • Electric cables. Deal with any frayed cables immediately as bare wires are not only dangerous to anyone who touches them, but are also a fire hazard.  Be sure to unplug any phone chargers that are not in use, and also any appliances that start to feel warm to the touch at the power source.

 

  • Storage. There are so many products we use throughout the house that are flammable, eg cleaning disinfectants, perfumes and sprays, and it’s vitally important to store them safely. A cupboard away from any heat sources and exposure to sunlight is ideal.

 

For any advice on fire prevention and protection, Swift Fire & Safety can help.  You can contact us by calling 01733 602955 or by clicking this link.

Preparing for a Fire Emergency at Work

Nobody expects a fire to break out at work, but these types of emergency can strike businesses at any time.  If the worst should happen while you’re on the premises, would you know the correct procedure to evacuate immediately?  It’s a duty of care to ensure that you (and other employees) are ready, just in case disaster strikes nearby.

There are some actionable tips that could help. Here are some to get you started.

Your action plan

Outlining your responsibilities during a fire or other evacuation emergency can be compiled in your ‘Emergency Action Plan’.  It should include escape routes which highlight primary and secondary emergency exits, the fire assembly point and also include accessible routes for those that may have disabilities.  Diagrams are very useful in this instance.

It should be decided whether any employees should use fire extinguishers if needed, and that if so, that they are fully trained in their use.

Emergency Training

Your team should all be familiar with your Emergency Action Plan, but you could also provide extra training for those with specific responsibilities should an emergency occur.

If you need any of your staff to be able to use a fire extinguisher, training can be given by your extinguisher supplier.  Maintenance of equipment is essential so that it is reliable should the need to use it arise.

Testing of all alarms should take place regularly. Conducting routine fire drills will also give your employees chance to practice their roles and responsibilities as if it were a real evacuation.  Your local fire safety provider will be able to give guidance and advice if you feel there could be improvements in the evacuation process.

Prevention

Now that your team know what to do in an emergency situation, there are steps you can take to make sure the chances of fire breaking out are reduced.  A common sense approach to general health and safety rules will help keep your workplace and its employees as safe as possible:

  • General Maintenance should be ongoing. Canteens in particular are ‘hotspots’ for flammable grease and grime build up, so appliances should be checked regularly to be sure they’re working adequately.
  • Dispose of rubbish daily so that it doesn’t build up into a hazard.
  • Clear all exits, stairways and corridors in case of emergency evacuation.
  • Open windows when cleaning products are being used, particularly near to heat sources.
  • Store paper products correctly, and never near to heat sources.
  • Make your premises is a smoke free zone. Discarded cigarette ends cause fires!
  • Ensure your premises are secure when there is nobody on site. Arson is the cause of over 40% of serious fires, so stepping up security is a good idea.