Advice for businesses during COVID-19 pandemic

We know this is a very difficult time for everyone, including businesses, but it is vital that your business, and the people working for you, remain safe from fire.

We’ve put together the following advice so you can keep your business, and those within the premises, as safe as possible.

If you have a specific question about fire safety within your premises during Covid-19, that isn’t answered below, please email tfs.cs@syfire.gov.uk and a Fire Safety Inspecting Officer will get back to you.

Review your fire risk assessment

If there have been changes in the way your business is operating (including fewer people within the premises than normal) this should be recorded, and any necessary measures should be taken to reduce any risks identified.

Review your evacuation procedures

Are there enough staff members to assist with evacuation as necessary? (roll calls, fire warden sweeps, moving/assisting residents etc.) Are all of your evacuation routes still available? (including any routes shared with other businesses).

Review & provide staff training

We know some businesses have taken on temporary staff to cope with demand. You need to ensure temporary staff and existing staff are aware of general fire safety within the premises, for example not overloading plug sockets, reporting identified issues, keeping escape routes clear etc. You also need to ensure they are familiar with evacuation procedures and any role they are required to carry out during an evacuation.

Review your fire safety arrangements

You should consider the impact Covid-19 has on your fire safety arrangements. Such arrangements could include other people such as training providers, testing and maintenance companies and other external companies or persons. Fire safety arrangements could also include business continuity arrangements, for example the availability of alternative premises in an emergency.

Consider Lone Workers

With fewer people working within the premises you should consider if your fire detection and warning arrangements are still suitable to alert lone or fewer occupants.

Consider the testing & maintenance of fire safety systems

Including fire alarms, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, sprinklers etc. These systems need to be kept in good working order. If you are considering rescheduling any routine maintenance you should first discuss this with your Service Engineer and discuss the fire safety risks. If your premises are occupied you should ensure in routine tests such as weekly fire alarm tests, monthly emergency lighting tests etc. continue and that you have a sufficient number of people who are trained to do this to cover for sickness and/or absence.

System faults

These must still be investigated and repaired without delay if the premises are occupied.

Carefully manage extra stock and keep escape routes clear

Storage of extra stock should be considered by your fire risk assessment. You should make sure stock is not in close proximity to ignition sources, or too close to smoke detectors or sprinkler heads as this could affect their operation. You should also make sure stock is not obstructing any escape route(s) and that escape routes are kept clear at all times.

Do not wedge open fire doors

We know people are worried that the virus may be transmitted via surfaces that are regularly touched such as door handles. We cannot stress enough how important it is to NOT wedge open fire doors. We ask you to focus on cleaning door handles/push plates regularly. Fire doors are a very important part of protecting people within a premises and need to remain closed.

Protect your premises from arson

Extra care should be taken if your premises are vacant during Covid-19, please ensure the premises are secure and any combustibles left externally are removed from site or stored securely. Do not store combustible items close to the premises.

Staff working from home?

Encourage your staff to consider fire safety within their homes. Lots on information can be found on our website. (There’s also a home fire safety quiz where they can enter a draw to win Amazon vouchers).

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Keep Fire Safe – home fire safety quiz

Whether you’re self-isolating, working from home or just social distancing, the likelihood is that you will be spending more time at home over the next few weeks.

This makes it even more important to make sure you and your loved ones are safe from fire.

That’s why we’ve developed the below quiz – to test your knowledge, get you thinking about fire safety AND give you the chance to win one of two £100 Amazon vouchers that we’ve got to give away.

#KeepFireSafe - Home Fire Safety Quiz

  • This form collects some personal information - which will be used to contact the randomly selected quiz winner and subsequently be destroyed. By submitting the form you are agreeing for your data to be used in this way.
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Social distancing and self-isolation – fire safety advice

Whether you are home working, self-isolating or social distancing, we know you’ll probably be spending more time at home over the next few weeks. This could increase the chances of you having a fire in your home.

Fortunately, by taking four easy steps, you can seriously reduce the risk to you and your loved ones:

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1.Don’t leave cooking unattended – and ditch the chip pan immediately

Distraction is the leading cause of house fire nationally. In fact, most of the cooking fires we attend are down to somebody starting cooking, forgetting about it and leaving it to burn. The rest usually involve chip pans – please use oven chips instead.

2.Make sure you’re not leaving clothes, tea-towels and other items near heaters, hobs and other heat sources

Another leading cause of house fire is people leaving things like clothes and tea-towels on hobs and portable heaters. Items like these can easily set on fire so it’s vital you keep them away from naked flames and other heat sources.

3.Check electrical appliances, don’t overload sockets and NEVER use faulty items or white goods

Extension leads can only handle so much power – plug too many things in and the chances are they will blow. Faulty goods can also be a big issue, too. If your washing machine or tumble dryer starts playing up – stop using it and get it checked immediately.

4.Make sure you have working smoke alarms and test them regularly

Smoke alarms save lives, but only if you have them and they are working. They can give you an early warning of a fire – early enough for you to get out safely. Buy them. Fit them. Test them.

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During what are very challenging times for us all we’d ask that, as well as taking on board this advice yourself, you pass the messages on to your friends, neighbours and relatives – especially those over 70-years-old.

Be assured, too, that accidental house fires are very rare and our firefighters stand ready to respond to 999 calls, across South Yorkshire, as and when needed.

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Local Updates – Doncaster Community Hub

We’re pleased to be supporting the Doncaster Community Hub. This has just been opened to support the most vulnerable during these extremely challenging times. It has been established by a range of organisations and will be based at the Doncaster Culture & Leisure Trust. The hub will provide:

· Helpline available 7 days a week from 8.00am to 8.00pm – Telephone: 01302 430300 – anyone can ring this if they are or know of someone who is vulnerable and has no other support
· Practical support such as urgent food supplies, shopping, hot food, collection of medication etc will be a priority
· Online chat, signposting and connecting people to other groups and volunteers to provide advice on exercising at home, keeping connected or just for regular contact
· A proactive team who will be calling vulnerable people to see how they are and find out if they need any support
· Helping to co-ordinate volunteers – collecting information about what voluntary and community sector can offer and supporting and co-ordinating voluntary effort
· There is also an email address: enquiries@dncommunityhub.org.uk and a web site: www.dncommunityhub.org.uk

Anyone self-isolating in Doncaster is urged to fill out a form online – www.doncaster.gov.uk/self-isolation-form – or call 01302 736000.

Local Updates – Rotherham Heroes

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council has set up a volunteer scheme – Rotherham Heroes – to support the district’s most vulnerable.

If you, or someone you know, is living alone, vulnerable and in need of help, the heroes are on hand. They can help with:

  • Essential shopping and dropping off food parcels
  • Being a friendly voice on the other end of the phone
  • Picking up prescriptions from the chemist
  • Taking your dog out for a walk once a day

To access the support – which should only be used by those who really need it – call 01709 807319 between 9am and 5pm. Alternatively you can complete a form on their website – www.rotherham.gov.uk/volunteer.

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After the flood- safety advice for residents

  • Make sure the property is safe before you enter and start to clear up.
  • Arrange for services, such as gas and electricity, to be turned off. The electricity and gas supplies should remain off until you are sure it is safe to turn them back on.
  • Remember, items that have been in contact with floodwater may be contaminated and contain sewage, therefore make sure that anything that has been in contact with the water is safely cleaned.
  • Open your doors and windows to ventilate your home.
  • Be prepared, have a torch at hand when entering the property and do not use candles.
  • Do not go near any exposed wiring, as it may still be live. Do not attempt any electrical repairs or connection of temporary supplies yourself – always use a registered electrician.
  • Do not use any mains powered electrical appliances in the areas affected by the flood until advised that it is safe to do so.
  • If safe to use them, make sure heaters are kept well away from soft furnishings to prevent fires
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if diesel or petrol generators are used indoors

For advice on electrical safety www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk

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Sheffield hoarding support cutting fire risk thanks to service funding

People who hoard are being helped to change their habits, thanks to the fire service funded work of a Sheffield mental health charity.

Sheffield Mind’s ‘Magpies’ project is part way through a two year mission to support people who hoard under a scheme paid for under money set aside from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s reserves.

Specially trained support workers meet with people for weekly one-to-one sessions where they discuss their lifestyles, the possible reasons behind their hoarding histories and ways they could change their behaviour.

A training exchange sees the charity offer mental health awareness training to fire service staff how to spot the signs of hoarding, whilst the fire service have trained Sheffield mind staff in basic fire prevention advice. A self-help support group is also attended by more than a dozen people with hoarding issues each month.

The project only has capacity to work with up to 10 people one-to-one at any given time, but is starting to have a big impact on those it is designed to help.

Its clients include ‘Mandy’ who has limited mobility and has hoarded items for several years after leaving an abusive relationship. Mandy’s home was severely cluttered, with whole rooms inaccessible and escape routes and corridors blocked- putting her at greater risk in the event that a fire did start in her home. But by working with Mandy over a period of several months, support workers have helped her to sort through her belongings and to make decisions to let them go, significantly reducing the fire risk hazard and making more space in her home.

Sheffield Mind Head of Operations, Rob Horsley, said: “Hoarding behaviours are a very complex issue which are about far more than someone simply collecting large quantities of things over a long period of time- often it is linked to other, significant life events or mental health difficulties and requires a considered, thoughtful approach to address. We’re pleased that the work we are doing is starting to have a tangible impact on people’s safety from fire.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps said: “We know there are some common factors involved in nearly all of our most serious fires, which is why our focus in recent years has been on targeting our prevention work at those who are at greatest risk. Our work with Sheffield Mind is a really good example of this as, although the number of people the project supports is quite small, the impact on their safety is huge.”

The project was awarded £88,000 under the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve. The fund is a Fire Authority scheme which reinvests money into local communities to support our work to prevent emergencies. The money has been set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

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Find The Time campaign – grandparent check

How safe are your older relatives?

For our latest campaign we’re asking people tofind the timeto visitthe older people in their livesand go through our Grandparent Check, which asksa series of questionsincluding whether they live alone, smoke, need a walking aid and use emollient creams.

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Our statistics show that fire risk can increase with age and, if you answer yes to any of the questions above in relation to an older friend, neighbour or relative,they may be at higher risk and be eligiblefor a free home safety checkby our staff. Check today by filling out ourhome safetycheck referral form, below.

In the meantime,help make them saferby:

  • Making sure they have working smoke alarms
  • Ensuring they’ve got a proper ash tray, if they smoke
  • Getting them a working phone that stays with them all the time
  • Speaking to them about what to do in the event of a fire
  • Helping them de-clutter, particularly their exit routes

Home Safety Check referral form

The form below collects some personal information, which we will only use for the purposes described. You can find out more about how we collect and store personal information here.

If you’re filling this formfor someone else pleaseensure you enter their details on their behalf. Ensure that the contact number provided can be used to organise a visit.

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Pets the focus of new fire safety campaign

Stop putting your animals at risk – that’s the message from firefighters, and a number of special guests,  as they launch a new safety campaign aiming to drive down electrical fires across South Yorkshire.

Figures released by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue today, to coincide with Black Friday, show there have been more than 350 electrical house fires in the county over the last three years.

Data also shows that crews have attended over 76 house fires in the last three years where pets were involved – highlighting that it isn’t just humans who can be affected by fire.

With most of these incidents being described by fire officers as easily preventable – the service has joined forces with a number of local ‘celebs’ to produce a series of online videos that highlight some of the everyday electrical fire risks in the home.

Sheffield Lord Mayor Magid Magid joins Pete McKee, Radio Sheffield’s Sam Cleasby and her husband, and former Arctic Monkeys tour manager, Timm Cleasby, in the series – with the first of which being launched today on social media.

The launch of these videos will also be followed by a range of stalls and educational talks across the county – with people across South Yorkshire urged to act on the three pieces of advice being given out by the fire service.

Area Manager Steve Helps, head of the joint police and fire community safety department, said: “When you leave the house in a morning, with the washing machine on and various electrical devices on charge, do you ever think about how your dog, or maybe your rabbit, would escape in the event of a fire? How about your fish, or budgie?

“Anybody who has a pet knows that they are part of the family but they are often overlooked when it comes to escaping in an emergency – with fire as a prime example. We know people are busy and don’t want to ask too much, so we’ve pulled out three simple things that people can do to keep their animal friends safer.

“Most of our electrical fires could have been easily prevented and the most common causes are things like leaving electrical appliances (like washing machines and tumble dryers) on overnight and when people are out, as well as overloading plug sockets.

“Buying ‘knock-off’ electrical equipment, which does not meet safety standards is also something we strongly discourage, as it can be prone to malfunctioning and starting fires. A good rule of thumb is that if it sounds too cheap to be true, it probably is.”

The service’s three top tips to safeguard your pets from electrical fires are:

  • Don’t leave appliances on, and devices charging, at night and when you’re out of the house – to eliminate the risk of these malfunctioning and catching fire.
  • Buy electrical equipment which is genuine and from trusted sources – ‘knock off’ phone chargers and batteries are prone to setting on fire.
  • Don’t overload plug sockets – exceeding the advised current rating (13 amps) can cause them to overheat and catch fire.

Earlier this month firefighters from Central and Lowedges were called to reports of a fire on Reney Road, Sheffield. Upon arrival they found a dog trapped inside a heavily smoke logged flat after a toaster had completely melted.

A different incident, which took place a year ago on Princess Street, Doncaster, saw two dogs trapped in their smoke-filled house during a kitchen fire. They had a lucky escape that day but their owner, Shaleen Ross, said it could have been much worse.

“When you leave the house you don’t think about what might happen when you’re out, especially to your pets,” she added.

“Fortunately the dogs found an air pocket, they got lucky, but we still had to move out of the house for three months as they kitchen was destroyed and there was smoke damage to other areas of the house. It was six weeks before Christmas too.

“Our smoke alarms did activate and were going off for a while, but nobody noticed. All I would say is be careful and make sure things are switched off before you leave the house, especially when you’ve got pets who aren’t able to get themselves out.”

More recently, on Sunday 17 November, crews from Doncaster and Edlington attended a house fire on Anchorage Lane, in Sprotbrough, which was caused by a faulty washing machine that had been left on overnight.

Following the fire, Watch Manager Gary Ridgeway, who was the incident commander on the night, has called for people to make sure washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers and other electrical appliances are switched off overnight.

He said: “This incident started after the occupant got in at night and turned the washing machine on before he went to bed. There was a fault in the washing machine which started the fire, filled the kitchen with smoke and caused a significant amount of damage to the property.

“At 2am in the morning, the two people who lived at the house would have had nowhere to go, had it not have been for their neighbours. Fortunately the smoke alarms sounded and they were able to get out, so the outcome wasn’t too bad.

“This is a serious issue for us, though. People think that putting the washer on overnight will be cheaper and save time. It may do, in some cases, but you have to think about the risk and what could happen if there’s a fault and you’re not there to react quickly.

“I would say it’s just not worth it, the cost of some electricity and time is nothing compared to the lasting damage that comes with a fire – be it injury to you, your family or a pet, a kitchen that is completely destroyed or something far worse.”

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Service issues safety advice for Diwali celebrations

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is once again calling on people across the county to take extra care today (Wednesday 7 November) and over the coming days as they celebrate Diwali.

With many families coming together, to celebrate what is one of the biggest dates in the religious calendar, comes an added risk due to the increased use of candles, divas, tealights and fireworks. The cooking of special meals can also bring additional dangers.

The service’s top five tips for Diwali, all of which involve taking very simple precautions, are:

  1. Always place divas/diyas, tea lights and candles on heat-resistant surfaces and well away from curtains and decorations.
  2. Children and pets should be supervised at all times near flames.
  3. Don’t let yourself get distracted – never leave cooking unattended.
  4. If a pan with oil in it catches fire, don’t move it and don’t throw water over it. Get out of the kitchen, close the door behind you and call 999.
  5. Ensure that all fireworks meet British safety standards and never go back to one once it is lit.

“This is a really important time for so many people across South Yorkshire, and we’re really keen that everyone observes it and enjoys it safely,” said Area Manager Steve Helps.

“Our main advice focuses on candle safety, simply keeping them away from flammable materials, such as curtains and clothes, and of course children, can make a big difference.”

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Fire funded sprinklers installed in historic Thorne autism residential home

Sprinklers installed in the converted home of a Doncaster brewery magnate now used to support people with autism, have been hailed as proof that the potentially lifesaving equipment can be fitted in almost any setting.

The devices have been fitted at charity Autism Plus’ residential living service, Thorne House, once the home of Thorne Brewery owners the Darley family, despite the challenges of fitting the devices in a historic building.

The sprinkler scheme behind the installation, which has been part funded by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority was carefully planned and communicated to the people living in the property, considering the needs of residents with autism and learning disabilities to ensure that anyone affected by the noise of building work, unfamiliar visitors and disruption to their daily routines was kept to a minimum.

All five apartments and other rooms and communal spaces in the home are protected and all pipework and sprinklers heads have been concealed to limit the affect on some of the internal architectural features of the late Victorian building.

Fire officers say the installation is proof of their commitment to championing the use of sprinklers in higher risk, residential settings.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “Sprinklers are a cost effective way of making homes safer – they stop fires from spreading, put them out quickly and save lives. We are especially concerned about those people who are most at risk of fire such as those with mobility or mental health issues or people with dementia who may not know how to react, or be able to react quickly enough, if they hear a smoke alarm.

“We play a key leadership role in helping people to better understand the benefits of sprinklers as part our commitment to reduce the impact of fire on people, property and the environment. This scheme, despite its obvious challenges, is proof of the fact that these potentially life saving devices can be fitted in almost any setting.”

The fire service last year announced a fund to encourage more housing providers to install them in buildings lived in by those residents most at risk from fire.

SYFR is one of the leading fire services in the country for its pioneering use of sprinklers in high risk residential settings, leading a UK first project to retrofit an automated system at the Callow Mount block of flats in Gleadless. That scheme is now internationally recognised for the improved safety it offers the people living within the building.

It has also worked alongside Sheffield City Council to make more than 540 properties in the city safer by installing lifesaving sprinkler systems at council owned flats in Gleadless Valley, Westfield, Stannington and Netherthorpe. This project was another UK first.

The installation of sprinkler systems in new build homes is now mandatory in Wales and SYFR is actively promoting the use of this type of protection in all types of buildings to build resilience and safety into local communities.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s sprinkler fund is open to any social or private housing provider. It will part fund those projects which demonstrate the best value and innovation in protecting the most vulnerable people possible from fire.  It forms part of the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve, with money set aside from the Authority’s reserves. Autism Plus won £159,000 in funding from the Fire Authority for this scheme.

Fire Authority Chair, Cllr Chris Lamb, said: “This fund exists to do exactly what it says on the tin – to help make South Yorkshire safer and stronger.

“It is clear that sprinklers can potentially save not only property, but lives too, and we hope this example will encourage other housing providers to consider getting such systems installed, especially in the homes of our more vulnerable residents.”

For more information, visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice/sprinklers-2/.

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Service makes plea to local businesses as part of national safety initiative

Firefighters from across South Yorkshire have attended more than 1,500 fires in non-domestic properties in the last five years, figures show.

The revelation comes as South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) joins forces with fire services across the country next week (Monday 10 September) as part of a national business safety campaign.

As part of the initiative, which runs for the full week, fire officers are urging business owners and managers to ensure their risk assessments are up to date and, if they aren’t, to get in touch and take advantage of the support available.

“When we talk about business fire safety, and fire risk assessments, it’s not just a form filling exercise – it is a process which helps safeguard businesses from the devastation that fire can cause,” said SYFR Business Support & Policies Officer, John Parry.

“The sheer fact that we’ve attended such a large amount of fires, in non-domestic properties, in the last five years shows that this is a real issue. A fire, be it accidental or deliberate, can in some circumstances stop a business from trading altogether.

“Our message to local businesses, especially SMEs who might be particularly vulnerable, is therefore really simple – if you’ve not got an updated fire risk assessment in place or you have any concerns at all about fire safety then get in touch. We are here to help!”

In addition to urging businesses to ensure their fire risk assessments are up to date, SYFR is also offering a range of business-specific safety advice during the week.

This includes good housekeeping, keeping escape routes clear, providing appropriate firefighting equipment and taking steps to protect against arson and deliberate fire-setting.

Another way that business owners can safeguard themselves from fire is through sprinklers – which are able to detect and potentially extinguish fires before they get out of control and cause lasting damage.

More information on sprinklers, and contact details for the SYFR Sprinkler Lead, can be found here: http://www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice/sprinklers-2/.

To get in touch with the SYFR Business Safety Team – who will be able to offer information and advice on commercial and industrial premises – please visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice/get-in-touch-2/.

National Business Safety Week is championed by the National Fire Chiefs Council and runs from Monday 10 until Friday 16 September. The initiative is supported by fire and rescue services across the country and aims to make businesses aware of the help and support available to them.

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