Fire Risk Assessment

Fire Extinguishers

If a fire starts inside your property the most important thing for your guests to remember is to get out, stay out and call 999.

Fire Extinguishers are provided as a means of putting out small fires quickly before they have chance to grow, but only if this doesn't mean putting the person fighting the fire at risk. How people will react in a fire situation will depend largely on their experience and training. Obviously it isn't practical to train every set of visitors in the use of fire extinguishers when they arrive, but some will have had training at work so will have a general idea about what to do.

In most holiday cottages it is usual to find one or two small fire extinguishers and until recently they were typically of the dry powder variety which was always a good general purpose extinguisher suitable for a wide variety of fires.

Dry Powder - New Guidance 2012

BS 5306 part 8 2012, introduced new guidance which affects dry powder extinguishers. It says, "Powder extinguishers should generally NOT be specified for use indoors, unless mitigated by a health and safety risk assessment". The reason for this is concerns about lowering of visibility, breathing in the powder and damage to the property by the powder which is very hard to clear up. So if you currently have dry powder extinguishers in your property, don't be surprised if your Fire Extinguisher Service Company tells you they will have to be replaced.

What Type Do You Need?

The type of fire extinguisher you need depends on the type of fire that is likely to occur. This can vary from property to property so we would always suggest that you seek guidance from an extinguisher supplier. In most properties, an extinguisher is provided for the kitchen and general downstairs use, and another for upstairs. Given the types of fires involved in these areas, a Water Mist Extinguisher in the kitchen and Foam for upstairs could be a reasonable choice.

Keeping Up-to-date

Whatever extinguishers you provide, don't forget that they generally need servicing and have a limited life (often 5 years). We've come across some real antiques over the years such as this one!

Old fire extinguisher

Disposable Fire Extinguishers

In smaller properties you tend to find 600g disposable extinguishers. These are fine provided that they are kept in date. They typically last five years. They are only suitable for very small fires.

Disposable extinguisher

Fire Blankets

A fire blanket is a very useful device for smothering small fires particularly in domestic kitchens. They are inexpensive and highly recommended.

Fire Blanket

Mounting

All Fire Extinguishers and Fire Blankets should be securely mounted on the wall in an accessible place in line with the manufacturers guidance. So often they are just put on a shelf, a windowsill or in the cupboard under the sink. Please also bear in mind that extinguishers are pressurized containers so should be mounted away from heaters and direct sunlight.

Basic Emergency Lighting

Part of any Fire Risk Assessment is to consider whether adequate emergency lighting is provided in order to aid escape in a fire. In many holiday cottages, owners provide torches, rechargeable lamps and SafeTLights as a means of providing some basic provision. The main drawback of these solutions is that visitors tend to remove the torches or use them generally and run out the batteries meaning that when they are needed the most they may not actually work. Rechargeable torches are recommended by some safety consultants and these do tend to last better provided they are kept on charge.

Rechargeable Torch

SafeTLights

These were featured on Dragons Den and are small LED emergency lights. They stay plugged into a 13 AMP socket (say on your landing and in the hall) and when the switch is in the "on" position they provide a very low level of light during the hours of darkness. If the power fails, they emit a much brighter light and guests can quickly remove them from their holder and use them as an emergency torch. Quite a nice little design and they are actually marketed as being suitable for holiday properties.

SafeTLight

However, as with all things in holiday properties, children tend to play with them, some people decide to steal them and some people remove them from their holder and then ram them back in the wrong way around which can damage the unit. For more details of this product see http://www.safetlight.co.uk/

Damaged SafeTLight

Mains Powered Emergency Lights

It doesn't actually cost that much to have a non-maintained emergency light fitted at the top of the stairs or in the hallway, that will come on automatically if the power fails. This will be useful not only in a fire but in any power-cut situation your guests may have. If you factor in the cost of replacing torches and batteries over a period of time a proper emergency light could actually work out cheaper for you.

Emergency light

Mains Emergency Light

Summary

Whatever you decide to provide, you need to be confident that you have done enough to make sure your guests can escape. The more complex the layout of your property and the escape routes, the better the emergency lighting will need to be. There is also an increased requirement for emergency lighting in properties that are in very isolated locations.