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Active Fire Risk MANAGEMENT v Static Fire Risk ASSESSMENTS

You may have heard of the terms Active Fire Risk Management and Static Fire Risk Assessments but to understand the difference between the two, we first need to understand a Fire Risk Assessment and just how far that takes you in managing yours or your client’s fire risk.

The aims of the fire risk assessment (FRA) are:

  • To identify the fire hazards.
  • To eliminate or reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as is reasonably practicable.
  • To decide what passive and active fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in your premises if a fire does start.

Traditionally, a company would employ a competent and professional organisation or individual to undertake the FRA on their behalf. The FRA assessor would attend the site and assess all aspects of control measures in place, the potential for fires to start (the three elements required for a fire to start and grow are; ignition source, fuel and oxygen). Should a fire start, how are the occupants of the building are notified, and when notified, how do they exit the building to a point of safety. Therefore, an FRA needs to be highly detailed and take in all of the above aspects.  Let us take one part of the FRA… means of escape.

The assessor will look at how people will evacuate from a burning building safely and in all scenarios, during the day and at night; one aspect will be emergency lighting. For example, suppose a fire should start in the electrical cupboard, a common place for fires to start. In that case, the power may be cut, therefore cutting power to all standard lighting and plunging the building into darkness.  Emergency lighting can operate without a power supply and under battery power thereby illuminating escape routes. So at the time of the FRA is undertaken, the assessor will check that there is emergency lighting in place, that it’s operational and regularly tested to ensure it is fully functional at all times. Let’s presume that the emergency lighting all checks out on the day and is fully functional.  The assessor produces a very detailed hard copy (PDF) report stating that everything is compliant with no significant findings but some minor improvements to general housekeeping and delivers said report to the client.  Everyone is happy. Or are they?

One month on; the minor housekeeping issues have been resolved, and the FRA report has been filed in the comprehensive document storage facility – or even, the filing cabinet! Unfortunately, the company employee undertaking the emergency light checks has been taken ill and is on long term sick leave. As a result, a complete handover of responsibilities was not possible. And, as a result of that, emergency light checks have been overlooked and are not being undertaken.

If the fire risk assessor had turned up one month later, this would have resulted in a Priority 1 Significant Finding, and the building would not have been compliant!  The result is a “Static FRA.”

Using a software platform, like VISION, that is data-driven and not a static hard copy gives you the ability to add the emergency light assets to the “live” FRA. Thus, the emergency light asset/s – just one of many facets that make up an FRA – are checked through the same system, becoming inextricably linked to the FRA making this a living, breathing database.  Should a light fail or the regular checks not be undertaken, the whole FRA becomes non-compliant.  However, the FRA becomes compliant again once the inspections are completed or the light is repaired/replaced and the FRA data is updated to indicate same.

That is the life or death difference between a static and an active Fire Risk Assessment!

Vision allows you to manage all aspects of your fire risk, not just a tick box exercise of undertaking the annual fire risk assessment.