Eaton Middle East calls for stronger fire prevention measures after COVID

Eaton Middle East calls for stronger fire prevention measures after COVID

Power management company Eaton Middle East has flagged the need for stronger fire security measures, including fire risk assessments.

As many businesses adapted their security measures to be COVID-secure post-lockdown, ensuring buildings are fully safe against fire might not be a top priority. Eaton Middle East has warned that protecting buildings against COVID could mean inadvertently affecting fire safety.

Most local regulatory bodies state that if you make an alteration to the property then you must reassess your current fire risk assessment.  As a result of building layout changes, including many temporary internal and external structures such as protective barriers and screens, many businesses will need to think about fire detection and alarm, exit signage and emergency lighting layout.

At the moment most changes to a building are happening so that the risk from COVID-19 can be minimised, but unfortunately, whilst this can be achieved it can mean increasing the risk from fire.  And it’s a serious risk for the people inside the building and also for the owner who does not consider it. There have been many high-profile cases of company owners or building managers facing large fines and in extreme cases even imprisonment for failures in meeting basic fire safety requirements or because of a lack of fire safety planning.

Eaton Middle East has highlighted the measures put in place that could jeopardise fire safety.

Escape routes

Many businesses have combatted social distancing via organised one way traffic through their premises either with arrows showing direction of travel or in some cases by blocking off passages with barriers, rope or tape. Eaton Middle East has warned that if there is an emergency where the building needs evacuating this could lead to doubt and confusion and may even prevent people from easily making their way to emergency exits.

This could also have implications for emergency lighting and exit signage – some of which may now be in the wrong place for simple and safe evacuation.

Warning segregated people

Buildings that are constructing new rooms, partitioning off areas or changing the layout to segregate people, are also being flagged as needing to check that their fire safety. Regulations such as fire detectors should be installed in each new space and it’s important to check that they are still compliant.

Some of these changes to layouts such as partitions will also cause a fire safety hazard whether it’s because they create a tunnel that funnels smoke or in many cases because they are plastic, which would create a lot of smoke if there was a fire.  Such partitions may also alter the effectiveness of sprinkler systems.

Risk assessment

Eaton Middle East warns that it is the duty of building owners and employers to consider all the risks that employees and the public may face in the spaces that they are responsible for.  It means that they may need to adapt or change their fire safety systems so that they can mitigate the risk from these new measures.

A well-designed fire safety system will have twenty percent extra capacity and allow some flexibility within its system, but Eaton Middle East wanrns that most do not and even those that do will not have considered the extent of change that they need to make to buildings.

Planning Fire Safety for Change of Use

For some new build and refurbishment projects, it can lead to flexible changes in the use and layout of buildings. Eaton Middle East has also warned that by specifying and installing fire safety systems with flexibility in mind, and considering adaptive evacuation technology, business owners can safeguard the future of their buildings and most importantly the people inside.