Commercial Cleaning and Fire Safety – The Crucial Link

All commercial and certain residential properties should have a fire risk assessment carried out in accordance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.  One major issue found within many properties is the lack of good housekeeping.  We often find that companies and tenants do not adequately dispose of their storage items and leave items along means of escape passageways and within inappropriate areas.

This can increase the chances of a random arson attack and can also block of escape routes and egress into a building.  It is often a good indicator of other fire safety deficiencies found within a building which we encounter when carrying out a fire risk assessment. 

One thing which should not be overlooked is having a good commercial cleaner to keep your premises clean with good housekeeping procedures maintained.  I believe the two go hand in hand and commercial cleaners can maintain good fire safety precautions within a building.  They can achieve this by by help keep the escape routes clear and ensure any unnecessary combustible materials are removed from buildings on a regular basis.

I believe good communication and co-operation between fire risk assessors, commercial cleaners and those responsible for the Health and Safety within a building is crucial.  We can also ask cleaners to look out for fire safety deficiencies while they clean for example, overloaded plug sockets and portable heaters being used underneath desks close to flammable materials.  They can also ensure extractor fans are kept clean and free from obstruction.  The build-up of dirt and grease in these fans can potentially cause electrical breakdown and pose a fire risk.

We can also take this one step further in the common parts of residential properties and potentially train the cleaners to test the fire alarms weekly and emergency lights on a monthly basis.  This can save the client money and also ensures these systems are tested on a regular basis.  Any defects that the cleaners notice can then be passed on to the responsible person and action taken.  It makes sense to have as many people as possible checking the fire safety precautions within a building as everybody is so busy these days, things often get ignored or overlooked.

At Whale Fire, we specialise in carrying out fire risk assessments to the common parts of flats, HMOs and all commercial properties.  We also provide a full range of fire safety services and maintenance contracts.  You can find out more at

Are you selling your flat and need a fire risk assessment?

If you are selling a flat which comprises common parts then you will require a fire risk assessment in order to sell your property.  This comes under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and as the responsible person (whether you are a landlord, property manager, portfolio manager or tenant) you must ensure this is in place.

The request often comes from a Solicitor who will ask you to instruct a company to have this carried out.  This often occurs late on during the sales process and can increase unnecessary delays and stress.  You may also be asked to carry out an asbestos survey for the common areas. 

Here at Whale Fire we specialise in carrying out these fire risk assessments and complete this for a whole range of converted and purpose-built blocks of flats.  We can send a qualified assessor who will come to your property and carry out a full audit of the common areas which also includes checking flat entrance doors where possible.

We will then issue you with a comprehensive fire risk assessment report which includes an action plan which will tell you exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it.  This may include a fire alarm and emergency lighting system in the common areas.  This all depends on the age, construction and number of floors within the block and on the existing fire precautions within the building.

We have a common-sense approach and appreciate that Building Control regulations are not retrospective.  We will ensure you get the right recommendations for you and your property taking into account all the crucial factors in your building, age, complexity and whether you have any vulnerable residents.

We may be able to recommend a wireless fire alarm system so you can save on the wiring in the common parts.  We will look at the flat entrance doors into your flats and using our specialised checklist, make a decision as to whether these should be replaced, upgraded or adjusted.

You may have gas and electrical maters in the common areas that need to be relocated or properly enclosed in fire resisting construction and have fire stopping issues in cupboards and under the stairs that need addressing.

Whatever the issues, we can look after this all for you and make the sale of your property as smooth and stress free as possible.  Please contact us by visiting

Consistency During Turbulent Times

I wanted to write an article about consistency in the field of fire safety and how I feel this has fluctuated in recent months, most likely influenced by the terrible Grenfell disaster.  As an accredited fire risk assessor and Operational Watch Commander in the fire service, I am fortunate in that I get to see both approaches to fire safety, from an enforcement angle and also from the point of view of a life safety risk assessor.   Dealing with operational fire incidents has given me the insight to be able to understand how fires can be developed, contained and extinguished; whilst carrying out fire risk assessments has given me a better understanding of what is likely to occur should a fire take place. 

The last few months has been very challenging for everybody involved in the fire safety sector and also, from my experience, a particularly busy time for the fire service, partly owing to the excessive hot and dry conditions around the country.  There seems to have been a large number of serious building and rural fires in recent months, although this could also be due to a greater emphasis from the press on highlighting these since Grenfell.   As any operational Fire Service Officer will tell you, the risk from fire has always been severe and as in any other walk of life, unfortunately it sometimes takes a large-scale disaster to highlight deficiencies that were beforehand, unknown or not so well understood.

I think it is fair to say that there has always been an element of inconsistency in the field of fire safety, arising from the unavoidable inherent risk involved in having different assessors evaluate and conduct a fire assessment. For example, 3 or 4 different fire risk assessors can be sent to the same building and could produce as many different (although hopefully only slightly) assessment reports.  To some extent that is human nature, everybody sees things slightly differently but the key outcome should be that the client receives a consistent and professional fire risk assessment report in line with current guidance and legislation, and that all major issues are identified within the report.  

On the other side is the regular visits to high risk premises by the Fire Brigade Fire Safety Officer whose job it is to identify any failings during that visit and make recommendations as appropriate.  This is normally issued through a letter to the client, although can sometimes lead to an Enforcement Notice or Prohibition Notice if serious failings are observed.  What I am noticing recently though is the lack of consistency from Officers where for example, a building that has been given approval for several years in a row, is suddenly hit with an enforcement notice or letter demanding fire precautions are improved. Again, this could be the result of the greater emphasis put on fire safety in recent months as mentioned above.

Where failings are identified either from an unsuitable fire risk assessment or if record keeping has worsened compared to the prior visit, it is only right that these failings are addressed.  What is of concern though is that sometimes different advice is sometimes provided by different fire brigade officers for the same building.  Of course, there are sometimes various solutions to the same problem and this is not necessarily wrong, however what is paramount is that the client receives a level of consistency that is not too dependent on who they are dealing with. Furthermore, as a Company Director, I totally understand and have experienced how standards of assessors and reports can differ greatly.  

This article is in no way written with any intention of placing blame on any sectors in the fire safety industry and is purely a topic I strongly believe is worthy of discussion.  From my experience, I have realised that we must put ourselves in the shoes of the client and understand the confusion caused by having different views and opinions from different officers on the same issue, including receiving one glowing fire risk assessment report and one damning report a year later, when very little has changed.

This is partly linked to the Grenfell incident whereby a much greater emphasis (rightly so), has been placed on fire safety and doing everything we can to protect the occupants of higher risk buildings.  This may be able to be improved through greater communication between the Fire Service and Risk Assessors as well as having improved standards internally within our organisations to ensure the right standard for our clients is delivered. 

Another improvement could arise from understanding the difference between a life safety and a property protection fire risk assessment.  A life safety fire risk assessment should ensure all serious fire safety issues are managed, and excellent managerial and evacuations procedures are put in place.  It may however, recognise that modern building control regulations are not retrospective and therefore not make the same level of recommendations that a property safety assessment could depending on what the purpose of the audit is.  Without a doubt there is overlap between the two, but there is one major difference– a life safety assessment must ensure, to the very best of its ability, the safe evacuation of the occupants in the building. For example, a property protection risk assessment might recommend a fire alarm system is linked to an independent control monitoring centre.  This would mean the fire brigade will automatically attend overnight when a property is unoccupied whereas a life safety assessment may not need to recommend this to meet its objective.    This may depend on the requirements of a clients’ insurance company so again we need to be sure of the purpose of the assessment and make sure everybody is aware of this from the start.

The point I am making is that fire risk assessors and fire brigade officers need to make it clear what the purpose of their visit is and we need to work together as an industry to achieve a greater level of consistency because at the end of the day it is people’s lives at stake, and we need to do everything we can to provide them with the consistency they deserve. 

All of the fire risk assessments at Whale Fire and now fully audited and reviewed before being sent out to ensure we have that consistent approach –


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Fire door compliance

Fire outbreaks are adverse events that create tangible human and financial loss.  There are currents efforts being made to improve protective and preventive measures. One of those efforts is the installation of fire doors in our buildings. There are several guidelines put in place by the fire departments across different countries in order to ensure that manufacturer’s produce and install fire doors to comply with basic guidelines needed to ensure the fire door is safe for continuous use.

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) Certifire scheme provides certain guidelines to ensure compliance on how to maintain a fire door safely. The scheme ensures certification of product via the provision of specification, installation and inspection. Fire door compliance is an act of doing or following the production and installation guidelines stated or provided by regulatory bodies. Manufacturers and users need to comply with those guidelines to ensure safety.

Manufacturers prove to comply with the production guidelines by self-declaration, test certificate and Third-party certification.  The responsible person needs ensure fire door compliance. The size of the frame and door needs to be checked if it actually meets the standard of Single (2040mm high X 820 mm wide X 36mm thick) and Double (2040mm high X 920/920mm wide X 45mm thick) requirements.

False fire door compliance results in different risks which are resulting in danger and probable loss of life for the users of the building, danger for emergency services when responding to a fire outbreak, risk of prosecution, loss of property and possession, and risk to personal reputation.

Fire door user compliance can be achieved by understanding the meaning and purpose of the safety feature, and knowing the guidelines that must be followed by manufacturers and users. There are certain checklists the user or third party inspection team will have to check to confirm if the Fire Door is compliant with guidelines. Those checklists and what to look out for are listed below although this list is not exhaustive:

•    If the door(s) are fully closing during use (if you notice, the door is to slow to close or slams shut with force there is an error)

•    Ensuring a self-closing device is fitted (if required)

•    Door handles (Loose or missing)

•    Are Intumescent strips and smoke seals fitted and in a good condition

•    Is the glazing on the Fire Door secure and fire resisting (not loose, rattling or damaged)

•    Door Hinges (Check for loose or missing screws)

•    Electromagnetic Door Hold Open Devices (Check they are working)

•    Latch or lock (Checking they engage door to frame)

•    Frame/Lining (Ensure properly fitted)

•    Door Leaf (Style and size are very important)

Fire Door-sets must be supplied as a complete unit and fully fitted up and finished by the manufacturer. Fire certificate must be attached to each of the door components to ensure quality. Resistance rating must be checked properly (FD30 or FD60) for complete compliance. If it’s a fire and smoke control door, the suffix FD30S or FD60S will be found on it.

Fire Door Resistance period (the ability of the door to separate fire for a specific period) is also very important. This states that fire door in a compartment that separates building should be 60 minutes (FD60) while others areas are allowed to use 30 minutes resistant doors (FD30). Signage must be installed on all fire doors that are installed in non-residential buildings. Signs should state "keep closed" or "keep locked" on either side of the door.

Other items to consider are checking open holes or breaks around the door or frame, damage to door or frame, no missing or broken parts, and no field modification to the door assembly. If any of the stated checklists is missing or damaged, safety of the Fire Door is not guaranteed.

Compliance with Fire Door regulations is not always adhered to during production and usage. Since awareness and usage of this preventive device are increasing, it is important for regulators to ensure adherence to the rules especially from the manufacturers point of view.  Users need to understand the risks associated with non-compliance. They should ensure they understand the requirement and checklist and properly check in detail before installation or while in use.

Government issues new fire safety recommendations after Grenfell report finds building regulations “not fit for purpose”

The Government has written to council leaders, building inspectors and fire chiefs to highlight new recommendations for building safety, following a damning report on current building regulations and compliance in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy that killed 71 in June last year.

The interim report from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety published in December 2017 found poor enforcement of regulations is “leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so.”

Furthermore a lack of clarity about roles and duties throughout the system mean “people are not aware of their responsibilities and often assume they are for someone else to do.”

A circular letter sent out in response by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government sets out three recommendations it considers “essential requirements for delivering safe buildings within the current regulatory framework,” to be implemented immediately.

The letter recommends input and support from fire and rescue services is sought “at the earliest stage possible so that fire safety can be fully designed in,” after the report found “fire and rescue service personnel may raise concerns about compliance...which are not acted upon because of cost, because the building work is too far advanced to make changes or because their advice is ignored.“

To bridge gaps in fire safety information transfer between those undertaking construction and those managing the building once occupied, the letter's recommendation states building control bodies must ensure this information is transferred and seek proof of the transfer taking place.

Finally, building developers must implement a formal review and handover process before any part of a new high-rise building is occupied, to ensure that in cases of partial occupancy safety alterations identified during completion can be properly incorporated.

The interim report also recommended
fire risk assessments of high rise and complex buildings be undertaken “at least annually” and whenever significant changes are made.

Currently there are no statutory registration or accreditation requirements for fire risk assessors undertaking risk assessments on complex and high-risk buildings in the UK, compared with stringent competency rules practised by other countries including the USA, China and Dubai.

Chair of the review Dame Judith Hackitt said she was “shocked” by some practices revealed so far.

“As the review has progressed, it has become clear that the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so.”

“What is initially designed is not what is being built, and quality assurance of materials and people is seriously lacking,” she said. “I have been shocked by some of the practices I have heard about.”

Institute of Fire Safety Managers welcomed all of the interim report's recommendations for improvements.

The Fire Sector Federation (FSF) also lent its backing. Chair Paul Fuller said “The FSF has long expressed concern about the current system of fire safety regulation and enforcement and the clear need to define competency requirements for all professionals involved.”

“We strongly support the call for clearly defined responsibility throughout a building’s lifecycle and for the establishment of formal accreditation and raised levels of competence for all those engaged in fire prevention within the built environment.”

The final report from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety is due in May 2018.

Whale Fire is fully accredited to carry out both residential fire risk assessments and commercial fire risk assessments. Email or call 0800 772 0738 for a quote, or read our FAQ on fire risk assessments to find out more about current regulations and how we can help you comply.

Marylebone Fire Safety Services

Whale Fire provide the Howard De Walden Estate with their fire safety services carrying out fire risk assessments to over 200 properties in and around the Marylebone area.  This area is very busy and vibrant with many retail shops and restaurants located along the popular Marylebone High Street and Marylebone Lane.   The buildings vary vastly in their age, history, usage and complexity.  They range from very traditional purpose-built developments to modern and older converted and terraced buildings used for medical, office and commercial purposes.

Each building is different and has its own challenges so when we carry out fire risk assessments we have to take into account various factors such as the number of floors, reciprocal means of escape routes and shared usage.  Some buildings have dental surgeries and may have occupants under sedation whilst other parts of the building house commercial offices and residential flats.  The occupants may all share the same escape routes.  We have to design a fire alarm system and fire safety strategy which will ensure all occupants can safely escape and works for the building as a whole.

We also complete the emergency plans for the Howard De Walden Estate and have to ensure that buildings which are residential only have a management strategy in place to ensure the tenants can self-evacuate immediately.  Where dental surgeries and commercial offices are involved we need to ensure they have the right fire training in place to manage a fire evacuation.

Some properties may require a delayed system of five minutes before the system goes into full alert (two-stage fire alarm) which depends heavily on having competent staff members managing the situation when the alarm actuates.

Establishing a ‘cause and effect’ approach to fire detection systems can help identify the correct category of system designed to achieve the intended outcome on a building-by-building basis.

We have assisted with designing new fire safety guidance which deals exclusively with mixed use properties (residential, commercial and medical) and in varying combinations.  The factors that need to be introduced include how a fire alarm system deals with this mixed use and the compartmentation and separation between the different uses of the building.  The one-hour fire separation between premises can be deemed satisfactory from a life safety risk assessment perspective when combined with additional factors such as fire alarms, life suppression systems (when required) and reciprocal management procedures.

Our fire safety guidance deals with taller buildings of over 7-8 storeys high which impacts upon fire brigade access, water supplies, location of utilities to isolate, Automatic Opening Vent (AOV) and smoke control switches, etc.  The requirements may differ if the building has a mixed occupation but it is important that fire safety guidance and a comprehensive fire risk assessment identify how the height of a building, travel distance and building usage can impact upon the speed of evacuation.  This in turn can determine what is required to ensure that evacuation can be carried out in a safe and controlled manner.  

Working in and around the Marylebone area we need to be aware that many buildings are listed and within conservation areas.  This can severely limit what changes can be made to the compartmentation within a building such as replacing non-fire resisting glazing and fire doors.  Therefore we need a flexible approach and can consider introducing compensating factors which can be used as alternatives, such as AOV systems, fire curtains, sprinklers, etc., when the compartmentation within the building cannot be brought up to a satisfactory level.

This puts a greater emphasis on management and being highly dependent on staff members to implement plans.   Management systems need to be introduced in buildings of mixed use where there can be some human intervention (for example, by reception staff) and reciprocal arrangements need to be in place.  It must be understood by tenants that they cannot, for example, use lifts and ensured they have a clear understanding of how to evacuate their building, the location of escape routes and where to assemble.  We also need to ensure evacuation plans are in place when there are flats only and residents may need to evacuate by themselves, perhaps in the middle of the night.

Below is a list of items that we also consider when carrying out fire risk assessments to these properties, using a variety of fire safety guides such as the HM Government’s ‘Sleeping Accommodation’ Guide’, ‘Lacors’ and ‘Purpose Built Block of Flats’ guide.

·         Unoccupied basements/cellars

·         Surface finishes to escape routes

·         Buildings converted into self-contained flats

·         Flats in multiple occupation/mixed use buildings

·         Roof exits

·         External staircases

·         Dead end escape routes

·         History/risk of domestic fires

·         Law/legislation/overlapping

·         Means of escape specific to flats

·         Means of escape for flats not meeting current building regulations

·         Refuse/chute rooms

·         External fire spread

·         Engaging with residents


Other considerations include:

·         Medical premises with the possibility of bedbound or sedated patients

·         Disabled occupants in residential properties

·         Electrical safety/building works and the various impacts on risk

·         Managing risk, engaging with residents and the human element of sleeping/drunk/intoxicated residents, etc.

·         Dependence on AFA systems and AOVs, automated evacuation systems, fire service arrival without staff intervention, fire service access to zone maps, isolation points, disabled refuges, fire service switches, fire curtains, fire dampers, etc.


Introducing a framework on which to put together a fire safety design guide to suit a whole range of different buildings is good for the fire safety management in a building.  In addition to using a risk assessment approach for each building, we have established consistency and a reference point when making and justifying a decision based on the appropriate level of risk. 

Whale Fire carries out fire risk assessments and a whole range of fire safety solutions throughout the UK. For more information, email or call free on 0800 772 0738.

What is an emergency plan?

What is an emergency plan?


An emergency plan is a formal, predetermined procedure that is carried out in the event of an emergency, such as a fire or on hearing an alarm.  This procedure denotes a scheme of manoeuvres which is designed to get everybody out of the building as quickly and as safely as possible.  Emergency plans are hugely important and should be regarded just as highly as a fire extinguisher or a fire risk assessment within any business or organisations fire safety measures.  Having a detailed and comprehensive emergency plan needs to be in place in order to be compliant with current law, and all members of staff or residents need to know exactly what the emergency plan is.

 Whale Fire have gained a lot of experience in emergency planning for fire, and with the knowledge and insight learnt from working within the fire service, we’re able to create bespoke plans for every kind of building or premises from huge office blocks with hundreds of members of staff to small purpose-built blocks of flats, and everything in between.  Our emergency plans cover the following:


What to do in the event of a fire

 How people will be warned of fire

 The identification of all escape routes

The location and use of fire-fighting equipment

The duties and responsibilities of fire wardens and selected members of staff

The safe evacuation of any disabled persons and any visitors to the premises

How and by whom the fire brigade will be called

Procedures for liaising with the fire brigade upon their arrival

Identification of utility isolation points such as gas, water and electricity


Our comprehensive and bespoke emergency plans cover both commercial and residential premises and we work closely with health and safety managers, landlords and property management companies to create the best plan for everyone.   We can also create Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) for disabled occupants who may need help evacuating a building.  Whatever you requirement, we can provide you and your staff members with a comprehensive emergency plan tailored for you.


For more information, email or call free on 0800 772 0738.

Acorn Estate Agents
GQ Property Management
The Howard deWalden Estate
Hilton Hotels and Resorts
Kaz Minerals
Lismoyne Hotel
The Apartment Company
Alexander Property
Alfra TV
Carpenters Arms
Construction Youth
East End Homes
Harrys Bar
Marston Propertie
Money Corp
Performace 18
San Leon Energy
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