You mention a Fire Marshall to most people and they will have an idea of what you mean – a person who puts a bright-coloured jacket on in the event of an emergency and helps people leave a building.
And technically there is a difference between the two names, a Marshall more the day-to-day assessment of areas and helping people leave the building, and a Warden then overseeing everyone leaving and safely being at the Fire Assembly Point.
Without getting into too much technical detail, it’s important to get the basics right and see the bigger-picture. When you’re managing a property interest this is the key, to spot where things are not right and then bringing in fire specialists where necessary to resolve.
Therefore here are seven to-tips to make sure you get the operation of Fire Marshalls and Wardens right at a property. Whether you’re an occupier needing to arrange for your workplace, or a landlord and managing agent needing to make sure these things are in place, these seven will help you focus on what really counts.
1. What You’re Trying to Achieve
Getting back to basics, there is only main purpose for Fire Marshalls, and that’s to ensure everyone safely leaves a building.
This is actually the purpose of all fire-safety measures, even if the building has to suffer further fire damage. To alert people and make sure they leave unharmed.
An additional purpose part-and-parcel of this is to ensure that the appropriate authorities are alerted to deal with any incident. So even as simple as calling 999 as soon as possible and liasing with the fire service on site.
Marshalls and Wardens not there to fight the fire themselves, however in some cases they may need to use fire exctinguishers if trained to do so in order to deal with minor fires or enable an easier escape for people.
2. Understanding What’s Covered
You need to understand the actual areas being covered and by whom. This is primarily for commercial premises, however some residential blocks may also invoved with a fire evacuation rather than stay-put fire strategy and on-site representatives.
With a multi-occupied property you also have different areas where each one will probably have their own appointed Fire Marshall and fire compliance. However, the overall landlord or managing agent may still need to ensure there are appointed Marshalls and appoint their own say on-site security or receptionist to co-ordinate the whole process.
3. Making the Right Decision
The secret to an effective Fire Marshall procedure is to have the Marshall adapt to the right circumstances at the actual time.
So, if there are multiple appointed Marshalls, they may all need to immediately report to the fire alarm panel to determine where the problem is and appoint a Senior one in order to then decide what each Marshall does, whether that’s sweeping different sections of the building or helping people on-route to the final Fire Assembly Point.
They may need to quickly problem-solve with say sudden locked areas or persons struggling to vacate the premises, which may mean practical provision of say walkie-talkies to discuss with others and make a decision.
4. The Fire Assembly Point
This is the end goal, to get everyone to wait at a certain point outside the building to determine when it is safe to go back in the building. Everyone must be accounted for here by cross-checking on visitor and employee records.
There’s two points to note as well on the location of these points. Firstly, try and get everyone to use the same one, although this may not be possible. Each occupier of say a shop on a retail parade has the duty to appoint their own Fire Assembly point which may differ, however a managing agent for the whole parade may help steer these all in the same location.
Secondly, choose the right place that is far away enough from the potentially-unsafe building, yet still safe to access without unnecessary risks like crossing busy roads and maybe close to haing the building still in sight to see what’s happening and if any unauthorised people are entering the building.
Plus, make sure the Marshalls control when people leave this point and go back in the building after everything has been agreed. Even if the fire alarm has stopped sounding, people should not be allowed to start drifting off.
5. The Two Document Cousins
In addition to the Fire Marshall Policy detailing what each Marshall or Warden needs to do, there are two very closely-related policies to check as well.
Firstly, the Fire Evacuation Procedure which everyone should have a copy of not just Fire Marshalls which details exactly how people raise the alarm and safely leave the property. Fire Marshall then just implement this.
Secondly, the Fire Drill records which record how proactively-run evacuations operate every six months or so, including any false alarms.
6. Get a Grab Bag
You may need some kind of ‘grab bag’ or pack that is easily available for Fire Marshalls in order to take and use during an actual incident, maybe kept under a reception desk. These can include:
• Bright coloured jackets to put on
• Any access codes and keys for sweeping the building
• Torches to use that have been regularly checked
• Plans and details of the building for others like the fire service to use, for example fire alarm zones, fire extinguishers, and location of utility points
• Location of outside fire hydrants for the fire service
• COSHH details for potentially harmful and explosive substances on site
• Visitor log-in sheets
• Emergency contact details for people
7. Training & Recording
So, after you have the right procedure and Fire Marshalls in place, you need to have them all trained up with regular refresher sessions as and when required.
There are lots of generic and even online learning which can be cost effective, however this still needs adapting to the unique property and circumstances here by a mini-training session afterwards or written back-up.
Also, keep records up to date, not just on everyone’s individual training but then all the policies, fire drills, and real-life ones as well.
Getting the Right Cover
As you face the challenge of arranging Fire Marshalls or Wardens at a property, it’s essential to first understand what you’re trying to achieve before getting into the nitty-gritty.
You then need to make sure the right areas and people are involved, which is more of a challenge for larger multi-let properties.
Then get the details finalised and signed-off by the right competent person, and the paperwork all topped-and-tailed. After all this sort of detail could literally be saving lives.
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