If you provide accommodation for paying guests in England and Wales this information is designed to help you
It gives people who own small bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), guest houses, self-catering accommodation and inns with rooms simple information on how to comply with the law. It also offers you some practical advice on what fire precautions may be necessary to ensure your premises are safe.
tell you how to comply with the law by carrying out a fire risk assessment;
answer your questions;
give you practical advice on what fire safety measures may be appropriate to provide an adequate level of fire safety in premises which are similar in size to a family home.
Does the fire safety law apply to me?
Yes, fire safety law applies to you if anyone pays to stay in your property, other than to live there as a permanent home. For example, if you provide:
guest accommodation in small premises, such as B&Bs, guest houses, farmhouses, inns and restaurants with rooms;
self-catering accommodation, such as houses, cottages, chalets, flats and holiday caravans; or
hostels or small bunkhouses.
This is not a full list and there is no absolute definition of what is a ‘small’ or ‘large’ premises. As a rule, if your premises are significantly larger than a family home, or if they include long, unusual or complicated routes to an exit, you will probably need more detailed advice on the range of fire safety arrangements that you need to consider.
Your responsibilities under the law
What must i do?
The law introduced in October 2006 – known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – makes you responsible for taking steps to protect the people using your premises from the risk of fire.
carry out a fire risk assessment
if necessary, improve your fire safety measures
keep the risks, and your fire safety measures, under review
A fire risk assessment is something you may be able to do yourself. In many cases, particularly in smaller premises which are also in use as a family home, it may be common sense. But, you do need to set aside the time to assess thoroughly the risks on your premises and then to put in place measures to minimise them.
Where can i get help?
Start by reading this guide. It explains the risk assessment process and gives you some advice on what arrangements may be suitable to protect your premises. In many cases, you are the best person to think about what risks there are likely to be on your premises, and how you can control them. You can choose someone to help you carry out the risk assessment. This may be someone who you feel may have the necessary knowledge or expertise to carry out this task, if you require assistance with carrying out your fire risk assessments contact us today.
If, after reading the guidance and perhaps getting help from someone else, you still feel you need more information about appropriate measures to take, you can contact your local Fire Service. The Fire Service cannot carry out the risk assessment for you. But, they may be able to give you information and advice on appropriate measures to protect your premises from fire.
What is a fire safety risk assessment?
It is a thorough look at your premises and the people who are likely to use them, including the elderly, very young children and disabled people. It considers the risk of fire breaking out and what measures you need to put in place to prevent it and keep people safe.
Keep a record
It is a good idea for you to keep a written record of what you find in your risk assessment. If you have five or more employees (including any who work part time), the law says you must make a written record of the significant findings. Significant findings are those which set out the measures you have - or plan to put in place to manage the risk, along with details of anyone likely to be especially vulnerable. Keeping a record will save you time and effort when you come to review and update it. It will also show that you have carried out a risk assessment if the Fire Service visit your premises.
Your questions answered
Do i have to carry out a fire risk assessment?
Yes. If you provide any guest accommodation the law says you have to do this.
What if it’s my own home?
If you have any paying guests, even in your own home, you must comply with the law on fire safety and carry out a risk assessment. A fire in small premises is just as dangerous as one in a larger property. Nearly all the people who die in fires in this country are trapped in domestic premises.
I only take in a few guests at a time.Do I need to comply?
Yes. If your premises are similar to a family home, the fire safety precautions you will need to take are likely to be simpler than those needed for larger premises with more complicated layouts and staff. However, there is no absolute definition of ‘small’ premises, so you must use your common sense. So, if your premises are larger than a family home, or include long (probably more than12 metres), unusual or complicated routes to the exit, you will probably need to consider more sophisticated fire safety arrangements than are covered here.
Is my self-catering property covered by the law?
Yes. Any flat, house, cottage or caravan you rent out to others on a short-term arrangement or for a holiday is covered. It is your responsibility to carry out a risk assessment and put in place measures to protect anyone staying there.
Why do I have to carry out a risk assessment?
The law changed in 2006 because the Government believes that those who own or run businesses are the best people to understand and manage fire safety on their premises. Risks change over time and, as the people who run the business, you will be in the best position to find these and to take action. We believe this is a better, more flexible way of making sure we have a high standard of fire safety than the old system of issuing fire certificates. Under the previous legislation, it was all too easy for a business owner to forget about fire safety once a fire certificate had been issued.
I have a fire certificate – do I need to do anything?
Yes. You will need to carry out a fire risk assessment. Fire certificates have been abolished and any that were issued previously are no longer valid.
What happens if I don’t do an assessment?
You are breaking the law, and you could be putting people’s lives at risk. The point of a risk assessment is to reduce the risks and plan how to keep people safe if there is a fire. If you fail to do this, you are putting your guests, your property and your business at risk. You may be inspected by the Fire Service, as part of its responsibility to enforce the law or, someone staying with you or working for you may report you to them if they feel at risk.
If you are inspected by the Fire Service, they will want to know that you have carried out a risk assessment. Keeping a written record of your risk assessment is an easy way to show that you have taken fire safety seriously. If the Fire Service don’t consider the measures you have taken or plan to take good enough to adequately protect people, you will have a chance to put things right. If you fail to do this, the Fire Service may serve a notice on you that means you must put in place better fire safety measures. Ultimately, they could take legal action against you and your business may be closed down.
Will I be inspected by my local Fire Service?
Possibly. the Fire Service usually carry out inspections of premises in their area according to the risk they pose. Any building that has people sleeping in it is likely to be considered a high risk. The Fire Service will want to know that you have done a risk assessment and that the fire safety arrangements you have put in place are good enough.
What if the Fire Service think I haven’t done enough?
There are a range of measures the Fire Service can take.
If they think you need to improve your fire safety, they can give you advice on what measures may be appropriate for you to take, and agree a time period for you to make the improvements. They can take formal enforcement action if they find a serious fire risk that you are not managing. This will mean you will have to carry out specific fire safety improvements. In all their dealings with you, you can expect the Fire Service to offer advice on measures that are reasonable according to the risk in your particular premises. They should always explain why such measures are needed.
Will it be expensive to improve my fire safety measures?
It all depends on your business and your premises. You may have to improve your fire safety measures and there may be a cost attached to this investment. In many cases, you should be able to buy fire safety products for use in small premises from us. These are likely to be less expensive than fire safety products which have been designed for larger and more complicated premises. You should get all safety equipment tested regularly. You may find it useful to keep a written record of your tests and the results.
How can I take account of the needs of guests with disabilities?
You will need to think about this and make a plan. It is not enough to rely on the intervention of the Fire Service. We have produced information to help you consider the needs of disabled people. This includes advice on developing plans to evacuate the building. You can download Guidance on the Means of Escape for Disabled People’ for free from www.communities.gov.uk/firesafety or phone 0300 123 1124 to get a copy (for £5).
Will I need to fit a new fire alarm system, fire escapes, fire doors, sprinklers and so on?
What you need will depend on your business and your premises. The law does not require any particular measures to be in place. What it does say is that you must adequately manage the overall risk.
There is likely to be a range of prevention and protection measures possible in individual premises. As the person responsible for fire safety in your premises, you will need to use your judgement to decide what is most appropriate.
You need to consider the hazards you have found, the risks to, and the needs of, those staying or working there, and the character of the building. For example, what may be appropriate in a modern self catering bungalow is unlikely to be the same as for a 300-year old coaching house. You can decide what fire safety measures may do this best from the range of available options providing they are adequate to address the risk you have identified.
Do I need an automatic fire detection and alarm system?
Premises similar to a family home (i.e. two or three storeys) are likely to need an automatic fire detection system that runs from the mains electricity (with battery back-up) and consists of interconnected detectors. Detectors will be needed in the staircase, corridors and bedrooms. This (technically known as a Grade D LD2 system) has been designed for domestic premises. In the very smallest accommodation (no more than two storeys) which only has two or three guest bedrooms and short travel distances to a safe place outside, a connected system of detectors with a 10-year battery, or radio interlinked detectors may be good enough. (Technically, this is known as a Grade F LD2 system). You may be able to fit a Grade F system yourself.
A heat detector in the kitchen should be linked to the rest of the Grade D or Grade F system. Whatever system you fit will need to be tested regularly to check it works and is loud enough to wake anyone sleeping. Similar systems, based on vibration units and flashing lights, are available to protect people with hearing difficulties.
Should I provide fire fighting equipment?
One extinguisher on each floor near the stairs and a fire blanket in the kitchen should be enough in most small premises. Please contact us for assistance. You will need to make sure that the instructions on how to use them are clear and that there is a warning to people not to tackle anything other than a very small fire. Evacuating the premises is the safest thing to do. You should check the gauge regularly to make sure the ‘stored pressure’ has not leaked.
What should an evacuation plan and instructions cover?
If your fire alarm goes off during the night when people are asleep they will evacuate more quickly if you have told them what they need to do at the beginning of their stay A simple plan may be useful for guests. This could include instructions on the back of their bedroom door and information in a welcome pack. You should tell everyone to leave the building immediately by the identified route when they hear the alarm. You should plan to phone the Fire Service from outside the premises.
How can I make sure everyone can get out of the premises?
Apart from providing information on what to do when the alarm goes off, you need to make sure that any escape routes can be used safely. An escape route includes any rooms, corridors and stairs which you have to go through to escape from a building. You should keep all doors which open on to escape routes closed, especially at night. This is very important in the kitchen. If you leave doors open, it is less likely you will escape safely, even if the room has a fire detector.
Although self-closing devices are a good way to make sure doors are closed, they can impact on the appearance and affect how you use the premises. If you decide these would be unsuitable, ‘in-frame closers’ or rising-butt hinges may be acceptable alternatives. Doors need to be strong enough to hold back smoke and fire long enough to give you time to escape. For small premises, a reasonably solid timber door that fits well into its frame is likely to be good enough. Any internal hollow ‘egg-box’-type door would not offer adequate protection and should be replaced. Exit doors, such as the front or back door, should always be easy to unlock and must not need a key to unlock from the inside. A simple Yale-type latch or thumb turn is usually good enough.
Do I need to provide emergency lighting?
Normal light switches should be easy to find. If a fire knocks out the normal inside lighting, you should think about whether any ‘borrowed lighting’, for example from nearby street lamps, would be enough to allow people on the premises to find their way out. If not, it may be acceptable, in small premises, to rely on rechargeable torches which come on automatically if the main supply fails. You should have one in each room with a sign that says what they are for. Larger premises will need more sophisticated emergency lighting systems.
Do I need to provide fire escape signs?
Signs are only required where they are needed. In small premises the escape route and the front door are likely to be obvious, so there may not be a need for emergency exit signs. You should include details of the escape route in the information pack you give to guests. You should have emergency exit directional signs showing any less obvious or more complicated escape routes.
Who can help me carry out a fire risk assessment?
You are likely to be best placed to understand and manage fire safety in your premises. So, you should be able to carry out the risk assessment yourself following the five key You can also consult someone to carry out your risk assessment. You may consider this person to have greater knowledge, experience or expertise than you. Please contact us for assistance.
What is the role of the Fire Service? Can they help me?
The Fire Service has a legal responsibility to make sure you are complying with fire safety law and you are managing the fire risks adequately. The Fire Service also has a legal duty to promote fire safety and can provide information and advice on fire prevention. They cannot carry out the fire risk assessment for you.
Some Fire Services take different approaches – why?
Each Fire Service is required by law to identify the risks in its area. It will have a plan for reducing and managing these based on its local risk profile. Each Fire Service must use its professional expertise to decide whether the fire safety measures that are in place in any particular premises are appropriate and would protect people adequately in a fire. Because of variations in, for example, the age, size, construction, layout, use of the building and those likely to be in it, there can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to fire safety. All premises are different, as are the people who own, manage or stay in them. What may be considered good enough protection in one premises, may not be considered good enough in another.
What happens if I disagree with the result of an inspection by the Fire Service?
Fire Services will, where appropriate, give you support and advice on how to improve your fire safety. They must consider measures that are proportionate and reasonable to address the particular risks they find at your premises. If the risk is not immediate or high, they can agree with you an appropriate time period to make the necessary improvements. If you do not make the recommended improvements within the agreed time, or if the Fire Service finds a serious fire risk that you are not managing, they have a legal responsibility to make sure you comply with the law. If necessary, they can take you to court.
The first step is for the Fire Service to serve you with an enforcement notice, which means you have to make specific improvements in a specific time. If during an inspection, an inspecting officer finds that the Fire Service is likely to give you a formal enforcement notice, in some cases, you may be able to arrange for an informal review by a more senior manager in the fire safety department. You are able to challenge an enforcement notice in a magistrates’ court and it is quite simple to do. You will have 21 days, from the day on which it is served, in which to lodge an appeal with the court. If you think an appeal may be appropriate, you may want to get legal advice from a solicitor.
In some cases you may agree with the Fire Service that you need to improve your fire precautions, but you cannot agree on what action you need to take. In these circumstances, you and the Fire Service may agree to approach the Secretary of State, who will decide what fire precautions need to be put in place. This process is called a ‘determination’. Both the Fire Service and the person responsible for fire safety on the premises have to agree to approach the Secretary of State. If the Fire Service think a determination might cause a delay which would put people’s safety at an unacceptable risk, they can decide not to seek one. In this case, you would have to appeal in the courts.
What happens once I have done the fire risk assessment?
You should make a note of what you have found, and the measures you have put in place. By law, you must have a written plan if you have five or more staff, but it is a good idea for everyone to keep a record.
Keep a copy somewhere safe and off-site (for example with a family member or your solicitor).
Have it available in case you are inspected by the Fire Service.
Revise it regularly – at least once a year – and when you make any changes to your premises, such as if you add another guest bedroom, or change the layout of the property.
If you are planning to make changes to your premises, you may need to comply with planning and building control law, especially if your premises has listed buildings status.
Will it affect my star rating?
As part of the quality or star-rating scheme, VisitBritain and the AA require businesses to comply with all the legal responsibilities they have. If you do not carry out a risk assessment, this will affect your rating. Neither VisitBritain nor the AA will take a view on the adequacy of the fire safety arrangements you have put in place - they are not fire safety experts.
If you provide accommodation for paying guests in England and Wales this information is designed to help you