Fire Safety Series – How many Fire Marshals do you need?
How many Fire Marshals do you need? This is a question that we’re regularly asked. In this article we highlight the things you need to consider during the decision making process.
Sadly there isn’t a clearly defined answer to this question. There isn’t a “marshal per number of employees” or a floor area ratio somewhere. If there were it would probably make things a lot simpler!
Ultimately it depends upon the findings from your own fire risk assessment, so that’s you starting point. If you haven’t got a fire risk assessment in place yet, you urgently need to get one drafted as they are a legal requirement for all businesses (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) and not having one will almost certainly invalidate your insurance as well as leaving you open to prosecution by the relevant authorities.
In fulfilling the main duty of the Fire Marshal, he or she will need to safely assist Relevant Persons during an evacuation. Fire Marshals should be “resident” in the area under their control & should not put themselves at extra risk during the evacuation.
How many Fire Marshals do you need? – The basic rules.
The general rules in deciding on numbers are;
- The Fire Marshal must be able to perform their duties (i.e. search their area) & reach a place of safety within 2 ½ minutes of hearing an alarm / discovering a fire. A “place of safety” is typically the muster point outside, but may also include a “refuge area” within the building.
- You need a minimum of one (ideally two) per floor or department. If the floor in question is large or complex then the responsibility should be split between additional Fire Marshals. For example, I used to work in an old building that was listed and had been converted into office space for one company. It would be fair to describe it as a bit of a “rabbit warren”. As such we had eight office based members of staff who were fire wardens. When one was on leave, the others had to move desks to ensure that there were sufficient marshals on site. This also went as far as restricting when staff could go for lunch breaks. If the marshal isn’t there, you don’t have a fire marshal. Simple.
- Extra marshals for extra buildings. If your site has several buildings or has areas of external occupancy separate to the main unit, then extra Fire Marshals will be required.
- Consider the number of occupants. If the Fire Marshal is responsible for a densely occupied area then extra Fire Marshals will be required.
- Consider the type of occupants. If the building has the following categories of occupants, this should be borne in mind in deciding on the number of Fire Marshals;
- Members of the public
- The elderly
- Disabled people
- Sleeping occupants
- Consider the fire risk. A building with high fire risks and/or poor fire precautions will need a proportionately higher number of Fire Marshals. Good fire risk management is required in these cases.
- Assembly points need to be manned. A Fire Marshal should be at the fire Assembly Points and if you have multiple Assembly Points, then you’ll also need extra fire Marshals.
- High number of members of the public? This can include places of worship, sports venues and transport hubs. In these cases, extra fire marshals will be needed.
- Consider time away from work. Once you have decided on a reasonable number of Fire Marshals, this number should be doubled to cater for the Warden being out of the building. This will include holidays, sickness and meetings etc.
Other questions to ask that determine the need for extra fire Marshals include;
- Do you employ a “stay in place” or delayed evacuation strategies?
- Is your business designated as being a “high risk” workplace?
- Is your premises a historical building? High rise and sub-surface locations have their own hazards and risks.
- Does your premises contain high-security areas?
- Does your premises have a history of fires (whether accidental or deliberate)?
We genuinely hope that this guide is useful. Hopefully you now feel equipped to determine how many fire marshals you need. However, if you feel that you’d like professional assistance in undertaking your fire risk assessment, please get in touch. We can recommend professional assessors to you.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Leave a comment below.