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Fire Alarm Testing: Regulations & Requirements
5839-1:2002 

There are a wealth of goverment regulations set out for the installation and maintenance of fire alarms and fire safety precautions in the workplace, with little in the way of succint summaries or guides on how to proceed. There are a number of things you can do and people you can consult, however, in order to make the process of securing your offices against fire more possible and less time consuming.

There are a number of things that need to be covered when establishing fire safety in offices:

~ The most obvious are the fire alarms. Your alarms need to conform to regulations, including decibels, continuous/intermittant alarm, placement and quantity.
~ Fire extinguishers will need to be in evidence, using materials appropriate to the kind of fires that may occur in your industry.
~ Fire exits need to be established and confirmed as safe emergency exits from the building. Larger offices may require purpose built exits.
~ Fire-safety signs indicating exits, explaining fire procedures and explaining extinguisher use should all be placed in communal or relevant areas.
~ A meeting-point outside the office needs to be established, somewhere out of harm's way should a fire occur.
~ Management should have a plan of action in case of fire, including a roll call once all staff are out of the building, and 999 calls. You may wish to incorporate business Disaster Recovery Plans into this documentation/training, but never at the cost of individual safety.
~ All staff and incidental workers (such as cleaners) need to be briefed on fire procedures, how to use fire equipment provided, where the exits are and where to meet up afterwards. This information needs to be summarised on a plaque somewhere visible for visitors that are in the office too briefly to receive a talk-through.
~ A schedule of regular fire-alarm tests, fire-extinguisher tests and any other relevant equipment to ensure everything is functional and abides by safety regulations.
~ Your workplace should ideally have someone appointed to deal with the fire safety in the workplace, and they need to monitor how the regulations change depending on number of staff. This would be especially relevant for small/medium companies experiencing fast growth.

Small, interconnected areas of general safety in the workplace will also fit into these plans, including accident books which should document any fire related incidents, and medical training that needs to cover the treatment of burns and smoke inhalation.
In addition to the above, you will also need to be carrying out scheduled risk assessments of your fire safety practices, even if no action is deemed necessary as a result.

Luckily, while you are responsible for ensuring you cover all of the bases, you are not really expected to research in detail all of the regulations that should be followed. The Government's Health & Safety Executive website offers a range of accessible information on the topic, and has a section dedicated to workplace fire safety here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/workplace.htm

It may also be worth considering what fire-safety precautions are already in place in your buildings, as some of the responsiblity will fall on your landlord if you are renting office space. Electrical Testing Surveyors are also able to offer advice and guidance on your fire safety, and we're happy to discuss your requirements and any questions you may have. Upon installing and testing equipment we offer reports that conform to all regulatory standards, and we can schedule further checks for you, taking some of the admin out of your hands. Go to this page for more information on the fire alarm testing services we offer.

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