Recent lockdowns have seen more people work from home and many high-street shops have either closed permanently, temporary or at least see much reduced opening hours. There are simple steps owners can take to reduce the risk to their property and adjacent buildings, including many flats that are above UK shops.  We address the risk to unused buildings in this short article.

What are the Risks?

Most buildings are meant to be occupied by people and often, it is people who first discover a fire.  With the loss of these “human detectors” the increase of a fire taking hold and being undetected has increased.   Unoccupied buildings pose increased risks through vandalism, arson, undetected electric faults, cable and metal thieves and general trespassing and squatting.  Managers, building owners  and letting agents share responsibility for ensuring the building is safe and meets the standards set by insurance companies and government regulations. Often more responsibility falls on these people once the building is no longer let or in use.

It is hard for a business to bounce back from a fire and should it spread, neighbouring buildings can often be forced to close also.  Matters can become more serious where private flats are “above the shop” which pose an serious risk to life or increased liabilities towards tenants left homeless.

Some common sense can help with a lot of these issues and we have put some tips together if you have a building that will either be unoccupied or have reduced occupancy.

Fire Risk Assessment

Firstly, consider if there has been a change to the building layout or use and update your FRA.  Your business may be operating differently now so updating the FRA is a good place to start and will help you think through the changes in a systematic way.  If you feel unqualified, discuss with your local fire company or fire brigade and seek advice.

Automatic Fire Alarm

Just because your business is not operating from the premises does not remove responsibility for the routine maintenance of the fire alarm.  Your Fire Risk Assessment may even suggest that your alarm is connected to an Alarm Receiving Centre to receive alerts automatically now that the building is occupied less.  Failure to maintain your alarm may impact on your insurance policy and/or leave you liable to prosecution by the authorities.

Close Fire Doors

Such a simple action can slow the spread of a fire, so prior to closing your building ensure all fire doors are closed and remove any litter from the building.  Visit the property regularly to ensure it remains in good repair.

These are just a few simple steps to take to help you get through the next few months as safely as possible.

These are difficult times for all and should you have any questions regarding fire safety or security in general, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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