Our top tips to manage an audit on your premises from the fire service

It is not easy to anticipate when there will be an audit of your premises from the Fire Service BUT it is always possible to prepare for it in advance. If you are always ready, then you can never be caught out! In this blog we outline the different types of audit you can expect and seven tips to ensure your audit goes smoothly…

The Fire Service undertake regular fire safety audits based on a proactive risk assessed programme. However many audits are still undertaken on a reactive basis and can be:

  • As a consequence of a complaint to the Fire Service from a member of public. Such complaints state fire safety arrangements are not up to the required standard and many of these of course are vexatious complaints based on dissatisfaction/disappointment or from a disgruntled employee trying to cause disruption.
  • On premises that have had the misfortune to suffer from a fire. Thankfully many fires that the Fire Service attend are relatively minor and range from such things as smell of burning within electrical equipment to scorching of surfaces as a consequence of a failed attempt at deliberate ignition. There are of course many fires where the damage is more serious but, in any event, you will also have the misfortune (depending how you view it) to receive an audit from the Fire Service.

Proactive audits from the Fire Service are undertaken on premises that are considered to be at higher risk to the occupants. These are likely to be initiated based on:

  • Specific trends of fire events where there has been a significant loss of life.
  • Where fire safety arrangements were considered to be below the standard required.

An example of this would be audits of hotels around the country being undertaken as a consequence of a fatal hotel fire somewhere in the UK.

When the fire service undertake an audit their sole aim is to gather the maximum amount of information in relation to the fire safety arrangements whilst spending the least amount of time at a premises. You can assist them in this regard by doing the following:

  1. Greet them in an efficient manner. If it is a pre-arranged audit have the most senior member of staff there to make an introduction. This shows that you treat the visit with the utmost importance.
  2. Have all relevant fire safety documentation to hand. Specifically this means:
    • Your fire risk assessment.
    • Your fire log book.
    • Details of your fire safety training including certificates.
    • Copies of maintenance or test reports relating to your fire alarm, emergency lighting fire fighting equipment, fire doors any other protective fire safety devices.
    • Copies of reports relating to preventative fire safety measures including the portable appliance test report, fixed wire report (with evidence of any Code 1 and Code 2 faults rectified) and service records relating to boilers, air conditioning and other plant. It might sound obvious but do ensure you have acted on the recommendations within these reports.
  3. Make sure that you understand your fire risk assessment and that the audit is not the first time you have read it… Every fire risk assessment should have an accompanying fire action plan. Make sure that you have read the recommended actions contained within and that you agree with these. If this is not the case make amendments or query the outcomes with the person who undertook the fire risk assessment. There is no point challenging these aspects for the first time in front of the Fire Service. If you have not complied with the timings cited within the fire action plan ensure you have amended the time limits prior to the audit and give a reason for extending the deadlines of these aspects.
  4. The fire service are likely to make many comments during the audit. Do not act on any outcomes until you have received these formally in writing unless the verbal instructions relate to serious or dangerous conditions which require immediate action.
  5. One of the most important aspects of fire safety arrangements at any premises is the implementation of the fire emergency plan. So, if you are expecting an audit from the fire service, it is highly recommended that you walk through the implementation of the fire emergency plan with your fire team at a slow pace to ensure they understand what to do. If the Fire Service have limited time to undertake the audit then they are likely to give focus to the implementation of a fire emergency plan. Consequently if staff are able to demonstrate their competency in this regard, this will go a long way to convincing the Fire Officer that you have suitable fire safety arrangements in place.
  6. Inform your fire safety advisor that you expect to receive an audit from the fire service, or as soon as possible afterwards that you have received an announced audit. It is important that they take ownership of their fire risk assessment and give you support to interpret or comply with any informal or formal communication you have received from the Fire Service.
  7. Remember it is also your aim to have the Fire Service at your premises for the least amount of time whilst ensuring they receive a positive experience about fire safety provisions at your premises.

So in summary, make sure you understand your legal obligations in relation to fire safety and that you have complied with these. At the very least, you must be able to demonstrate that you have a plan that you intend to follow to achieve compliance. It is vital that they have confidence in your ability to manage fire safety. Remember Fire Safety compliance is based on self-assessment – don’t be afraid to challenge what the Fire Service say but be polite!

If you have further queries, or need help with any of the items above, please do not hesitate to contact us.