Original article from: IFSEC Global
The coronavirus crisis has created completely unprecedented conditions across the country and around the world. This has left almost everyone in a position where they are entirely reevaluating their lives – from a business perspective to living arrangements, things feel markedly different.
This is true for landlords too, as standard practice needs to be re-thought in many cases as what needs to be done for tenants, and how to manage the safety and security of rented properties during this time. Of course, landlords are legally obligated to take specific legal steps to look after the safety of their tenants.
Certainly, one of the most vital aspects of safety that could be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak is fire safety. Fire safety professionals are still required to visit properties on a regular basis, so it is essential that they can practice safe levels of social distancing in order to manage their own level of risk. It would appear, based on responses to the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and Fire Industry Association (FIA), that those responsible for fire safety have been granted key worker status and will continue to carry out as many tasks that require immediate attention through the crisis.
Here we take a look at some of the things that landlords need to start thinking about with regard to their tenants’ safety, and what they can do to minimise the risk going forward.
Carry out a new fire safety assessment
Perhaps one of the most important things to note is that due to the lockdown, tenants will typically be spending much of their time in their home. This can have implications for fire safety – and this is something that it is worth considering. So, the first step that landlords may need to take is carrying out a new fire safety assessment.
Fire safety assessments are an important legal requirement for landlords – but when significant changes occur to a property, it is essential that you ensure your fire safety assessment is still valid. Carrying out a re-assessment is important in order to make sure that the systems and plans in place are still relevant with tenants in their properties at all hours of the day. If you believe that your property might be affected by the change in usage, now is the time to act.
Take precautions with checking the fire alarm system
Landlords with multiple flats in one building are required to organise testing for the fire alarm system on a regular basis depending on the type of alarm you have installed. In some properties with communal alarm systems, testing needs to be carried out every week.
In this case, you may employ someone to check the system, or it may be that you carry out the spot check yourself. In either case, it is essential that this process continues to be carried out as normal, however, you need to ensure that you are following the Government’s social distancing recommendations when doing so.
Continue with all legally required services
It is also important to note that the coronavirus is not considered to be a reason that landlords can relax their responsibilities with regard to any kind of legally required fire safety services. It is imperative that crucial health and safety measures continue to be followed by landlords in other to remain in compliance with legislation.
The COVID-19 crisis is not an excuse for failing to uphold health and safety measures – it may just take more care and precautions to be taken in order to be able to do so safely.
Install a stronger fire alarm system
It may be the now is the right time to consider having an upgraded fire alarm system installed. After all, a fire alarm going off in a building with a number of tenants is now likely to impact every person who is in the building, and it is essential that the strongest possible measures are in place.
If you have a strong alarm system in place, then you could consider further preventative and reactive measures; it could be worthwhile to have fire sprinklers installed. According to sprinkler system specialists Applications Engineering “sprinklers not only save lives but can significantly reduce the damage caused by a fire. Their instantaneous response to a breakout allows a fire to be controlled before emergency services can reach the scene”.
Ensure escape routes are accessible at all times
It is also vital to ensure that all properties have their communal hallways and other fire escapes clear at all times. Now is the time to carry out regular inspections to ensure that there are no potential obstructions that could cause a problem in the event of a fire breaking out.
It is a great idea to take this time as a key moment to reassess the fire safety precautions in your property, and ensure that they are up to standard. The situation with coronavirus is very serious, but so are a landlord’s obligations to take health and safety seriously.
Director of BBFS.