In the aftermath of the devastating fire that ravished through small business units located within the Cattle Market in Nottingham, Colin Milligan, from fire and security alarm system specialists, Tecserv UK, provides advice which may help small businesses protect themselves from a fire in the future.
It has since been revealed that the fire, which was reported to the emergency services at 5.40pm on Sunday 4 November may have been started by fireworks. Three individuals have so far been arrested on suspicion of arson based on CCTV camera evidence which has shown a firework landing at the base of a steel roller shutter door to a unit which was storing mattresses.
The fire will now be fully investigated, but many small businesses may now be reflecting on how they can better protect their business. The following are key areas to address.
- Review your fire risk assessment: All business owners are required by law to ensure a fire risk assessment has been carried out by a competent individual. This will determine the category of fire alarm system that should be installed and suggest other measures that may help reduce the risk of fire and prevent it from spreading. If you have not carried out a recent fire risk assessment on your business premises, now really is the time to do so!
- Don’t rely on the fire alarm systems installed by landlords: Many small businesses move into their business premises and rely on the fire alarm system that the landlord has installed to meet the fire risk assessment, which, at the time of the assessment, may have been on a bare unit. If the occupant has subsequently changed the use, a further fire risk assessment should be carried out and appropriate measures taken based on the business activities now being conducted.
There are a number of fire alarm categories. The highest system is a category P1 system which are intended to protect property and alert the emergency services. This change of use may require a different category of fire alarm more suited to protect property as well as lives. The fire risk assessment may also recommend other measures such as installing a fire suppression system like water sprinklers that will extinguish or prevent the spread of fire in a building.
- Love thy neighbour: There is a widely quoted statistic that “Over 70% of businesses involved in a major fire either do not reopen, or subsequently fail within 3 years of the fire.” So, whilst you may have taken extra precautions, it is important to check on the activities of neighbouring businesses and be aware of whether they have also taken robust actions to minimise the risk of fire. It is reported that 17 other businesses have been directly affected by the Cattle Market fire, with many others experiencing severe disruption caused by the closure of roads and loss of utilities and other services.
- Install CCTV: CCTV can’t prevent fire, but it can help to bring about arrests and provide evidence that will help ensure the perpetrators are charged. CCTV evidence will almost certainly help your insurance claim.
For a small business these preventative measures may at first seem like an expensive investment or unaffordable optional extra. However, when considered against the cost the total loss of your business will cause, hopefully you will review your current fire risk assessment and implement the recommendations provided in the report.