With one week to go until Bonfire Night, Tina Chittenden examines the dangers posed to businesses from fireworks and fire-related incidents.
“Remember, remember the fifth of November… Gunpowder, treason and plot… I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot… Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent to blow up the King and the Parliament… Three score barrels of powder below… Poor old England to overthrow… By God’s providence he was catched… With a dark lantern and burning match… Holloa boys, holloa boys… God Save the King! Hip hip hooray!” (Traditional English Rhyme, 17th Century)
Although most people have happy associations with Bonfire Night, lower prices and easier access though ‘pop-up’ firework shops and the Internet now mean that the ‘firework season’ has been somewhat extended beyond this traditional celebration.
While the majority of users may be sensible and law-abiding, firework-related incidents have now become a major issue for businesses.
Alongside the greater availability of fireworks, with the clocks having been put back last weekend there’s now an increased risk to property– including commercial and industrial sites – of damage from fireworks in the extra hours of darkness, be it accidental or as a result of anti-social or criminal behaviour.
The potential financial implications and threats to business continuity that may follow an incident need to be planned for and mitigated or there may be serious consequences for any company.
There are a number of steps businesses can take to reduce the risks posed by fireworks:
*Ensure premises are secured at the end of the working day. Doors, windows, skylights and any other possible means of entry through which fireworks could enter the property should be properly closed and locked
*If there’s a high perceived risk of anti-social behaviour, letter boxes should be protected internally with proprietary metal containers designed to contain fires from lit materials such as fireworks. This type of product is widely available. Some solutions incorporate an automatic fire extinguisher for enhanced protection
*All yards and open areas surrounding the premises should be kept clear of rubbish and waste bins secured, where possible, at least ten metres from buildings and at least two metres distant from the site perimeter (or as far away from doors, windows, canopies or overhanging roofs as possible)
*Any combustible material – such as timber pallets or plastic crates – stored in the open should be kept to a minimum and located a suitable distance away from the company buildings. Flammable liquids and gases must be kept in designated storage facilities
*Vegetation surrounding buildings should be cut back and, wherever possible, removed
Threat from fire
The beginning of November is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for the police service and the Fire Brigade. In truth, there are many events which attract the use of fireworks, such as the New Year celebrations and Diwali, so on that basis precautions do need to be taken all year round.
According to UK fire statistics, over 40% of fires that occur in business premises are the result of arson. Any premises can be subject to attack, but those most at risk include schools, abandoned/unoccupied buildings, places of worship and animal research establishments.
Under UK fire safety legislation, all businesses must have an overall fire risk assessment carried out by a competent person. This should include an arson risk assessment.
Like all risk assessments this should be formally documented and reviewed periodically.
The arson risk assessment should be incorporated into security decisions and any specific requirements of insurers taken into account.
Taking these sort of precautions should mean that your business’ properties are safe from fireworks.
Tina Chittenden is Head of the Security Sector at Darwin Clayton