Churches and Places of worship are used by a diverse range of people and at different times of the day and different days in the week. There are occasions when there are few people present and other times when the building may be full-to-overflowing.
All of these situations need careful consideration to determine who may be present should there be a fire so that the Fire Risk Assessment can be as accurate as possible.
What happens in the premises?
It is important that the Fire Risk Assessment considers all the foreseeable occupancy patterns of the premises. Consider some possibilities below:
There will be occasions when few people are present, perhaps someone working alone on some paperwork, a couple of people doing some maintenance work or a time when a church sitter has just opened the doors.
There are occasions when people may be remote from others in the premises, such as people who are bell-ringing in a tower that is accessed via stairs and is not in direct contact with the remainder of the building.
Some services, such as those around Easter, Harvest and Christmas, often attract more people than other services through the year. The assessment needs to take account of this larger-than-normal attendance.
Special events, such as concerts, may feature in the calendar, in which a high number of people would be present.
Open days and tower tours allow visitors access to normally closed-off parts of the building, but these need to be considered too.
Don't forget to think about rehearsals and practise sessions for choirs, worship bands and so on. Likewise, consider if there are any small groups, such as Bible study sessions or Prayer Meetings.
There may be times when the building is not open, but people have access to the grounds outside.
The simplest way to do this is to look at your diary of events, including weekly and special services such as concerts, and use this as a guide.
The time of day that these things happen is also an important consideration. At night, there is reduced availability of borrowed light which may put people at risk should there be a fire and the lights fail.
Additionally, weather conditions may have a relevance on how fire procedures are put together (people will be less inclined to evacuate a building during inclement weather so alternatives to an outdoor assembly point may need to be considered if the climate is particularly poor).
Who will be present?
It is necessary to think about the groups of people that may be present. Consider some of the following examples:
Employees and volunteers, who are likely to have received instruction about what to do if there is a fire. Some may have added responsibilities in an emergency, and will act as fire or evacuation marshals/wardens.
Regular attendees, who may have had some training or been involved in a fire drill and know what to do or what to expect.
Members of the public, such as the people attending a concert, who are unlikely to know anything about the fire safety measures in the premises and will need to be provided with information such as exit signs and possibly announcements.
Disabled people, who may need assistance during an evacuation.
Babies and other children, who may need to be carried out of the premises, as well as the parents who are likely to search for their child within the building before they themselves leave the building.
People passing by the premises which may be affected by the smoke and flames.
Neighbours who may be affected by an outbreak of fire, which is of significance when the premises are attached to others.
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Next stage: Consider the existing fire precautions and measures, Are these adequate?
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