Information for small and medium places of assembly

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) is committed to ensuring the safety of the Norfolk community through our prevention, protection and response activity. As an enforcing authority for the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the Fire Safety Order) we are committed to working with businesses to ensure that premises are safe - we do this through providing advice and information as well as carrying out inspections.

Following a number of significant fires in similar premises, NFRS wants to support businesses like yours across Norfolk to keep your customers and staff safe and to assist you in understanding your fire safety responsibilities.

This information sheet provides guidance on meeting some of your key responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order and steps you can take to ensure your business is safe. It is not a comprehensive guide to your legal duties but information about how to access further guidance can be found at the end.

In most workplaces the responsible person for fire safety is the employer – this may be a Company or an individual operating as a sole trader. Managers and other employees may have some responsibility for fire safety where this forms part of their job description or routine duties.

This information sheet is intended for owners and managers of premises where the main use of the building or part of the building is as a small (i.e. premises accommodating up to 60 people) or a medium (i.e. premises accommodating up to 300 people) place of assembly. It is specifically intended to support those who own or manage pubs, bars, cocktail lounges, cafes and restaurants.

How to contact us

If you would like any further information or advice on complying with the Fire Safety Order, please do not hesitate to email us at hq@fire.norfolk.gov.uk.

The responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. This means considering how people in or around the premises may be at risk from fire, what you need to do to reduce the risk of a fire occurring and how you will keep people safe. The fire risk assessment will help you identify the potential causes of fire in your premises and identify the arrangements you need to have in place to make sure if a fire does occur, no one in the premises is injured.

Your fire risk assessment should cover:

  • Risk, likelihood and consequence of a fire on the premises
  • Fire detection & alarms
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Emergency lighting
  • Emergency procedures, in particular evacuation of the premises
  • Maintenance of fire safety systems and equipment
  • Staff training

The Fire Safety Order requires the responsible person to make a written record of the significant findings from the fire risk assessment (this means the steps you are taking to comply with the Fire Safety Order) if:

  • The premises is licenced
  • You employ five or more members of staff (this includes all employees of the company)

You must also record the details of any groups of people your fire risk assessment has identified as being particularly at risk.

The fire risk assessment should be reviewed regularly, including when there has been any changes to the building, or the way the building is used. If no changes have been made, it is good practice to ensure that the fire risk assessment is reviewed at least once a year.

The Fire Safety Order requires employers to ensure that their staff are provided with adequate fire safety training when they are first employed and on a periodic basis thereafter.

The training provided should be appropriate to the risks identified in your fire risk assessment and may vary for different staff members based on their role.

The type of training should be based on the particular features of the premises and should consider the findings of the fire risk assessment.

If you have new staff or your team has not been in the workplace for some time, you should ensure that fire safety training is included in your training plans.

The purpose of a fire alarm is to detect a fire and warn people in the premises so they can evacuate. Most small and medium places of assembly will have an automatic fire alarm system and this must be appropriate for the size and layout of the premises. This should normally comply with British Standard (BS) 5839: Part 1. Your fire risk assessment should have determined the type of system required.

To make sure that your fire alarm system works, it should be tested and maintained on a regular basis. It is recommended that all tests, and any maintenance work should be recorded in a logbook. This is a way of documenting your compliance with the Fire Safety Order and will help you with the ongoing management of your fire safety arrangements.

If the premises has not been used for a long period, the fire alarm system should be checked to make sure it is working effectively.

Your fire risk assessment should determine if you need firefighting equipment in the premises. The most common firefighting equipment found in small and medium places of assembly are fire extinguishers. The number and types of fire extinguisher you have should be determined by the fire risk assessment. Staff should be given appropriate training in the use of fire extinguishers and this should form part of their regular fire safety training.

If you have fire extinguishers, you need to ensure that they are serviced regularly by a competent person. For most extinguishers this means every 12 months.

Fire doors are vital to prevent the spread of fire and smoke should a fire occur in your premises. You should have systems in place to ensure fire doors are inspected and properly maintained. A fire door found to be damaged or defective should be immediately repaired or replaced.

If you have fire doors in your premises, they are there to protect people within the building from fire and smoke spread. Leaving them open puts your staff and customers at risk.

In some cases, automatic release systems that work on the activation of the fire alarm can be added to doors. This allows fire doors to be kept in the open position during working hours, but then close to prevent the spread of fire and smoke should a fire occur.

Fire doors should never be wedged open – propping or wedging open fire doors is dangerous.

All escape routes should lead to a fire exit that can be easily and immediately opened - in most cases fire exit doors should open in the direction of escape. This exit may be the usual entrance or exit from the building or a specific emergency exit.

If you have an outdoor seating area, this should not obstruct doors or slow people exiting the premises down – there should be a clear route out of the building.

Emergency exits should be clearly signed so that if the usual entrance or exit is blocked by fire, other escape routes can quickly be located. Where you have emergency lighting you must ensure it is tested on a regular basis and you have a maintenance programme in place.

Fire exits may be locked when the premises is empty but must be available for use when anyone is occupying the premises, this includes when staff are on the premises even if you are closed to customers.

Emergency routes and exits must be kept clear at all times, with no obstructions narrowing or blocking the route or exit doors.

It is important that you implement and test your emergency plan so that the people using your premises know what to do if there is a fire and that the premises can be safely evacuated.

The Fire Safety Order requires the responsible person to make a written record of the Emergency Plan if:

  • The premises is licenced
  • You employ five or more members of staff (this includes all employees of the company)

Your emergency plan should be determined by the findings of your fire risk assessment and could include:

  • How you will warn people that there is a fire;
  • What your employees should do if they discover a fire;
  • How the premises will be evacuated (including those people who require assistance to evacuate);
  • How the fire and rescue service will be called and who is responsible for doing this;
  • Identification of the escape routes from your premises;
  • What firefighting equipment you have and where it is located;
  • The location of your assembly point and roll call procedure

The above list is not exhaustive and more information about formulating an emergency plan can be found at the bottom of this letter.

If you have people who do not ordinarily work in the premises present (such as contractors or agency staff) you must ensure that they are provided with information about the evacuation arrangements and what to do in the event of a fire.

You must nominate a sufficient number of staff to implement the evacuation procedures and ensure members of the public evacuate the building in the event of a fire. These staff may need additional training.

NFRS understands that it is desirable for business owners to have an attractive interior décor for customers. However, decorative materials that are used to line walls and ceilings can significantly contribute to the spread of a fire. Not only will this put relevant people at an increased risk in a fire, but it can also significantly increase the damage caused by fire and smoke and may increase the financial impact of a fire on your business.

When considering the decoration of your premises, you must consider the increased risk of a fire spreading because of the materials you are using. Before installing any decorative materials on your walls and ceilings, you should consult with the manufacturer of the material about the suitability of their product for your intended use. You should confirm that the manufacturer can provide certification about the performance of their product in relation to its fire resistance.

Decorations you should consider can include (but is not limited to):

  • Temporary decorations (Christmas/Halloween/Public Holidays etc)
  • Materials designed to provide sound insulation
  • Floral (both real and artificial) decorations
  • Curtains/Drapes and Fabric wall coverings
  • Decorative panelling and facades

You must review your fire risk assessment when making any significant changes to your premises.

There is a lot of useful information and advice available free of charge on the HM Government website. View the HM Government guidance on fire safety.

The NFCC also has guidance on choosing a fire risk assessor. If you are arranging for someone else to carry out or review your fire risk assessment, you may also want to check that they have experience of undertaking fire risk assessments in licensed premises.