When people think of Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS), they don’t tend to picture the team that inspects thousands of businesses and buildings across the county each year, making sure they’re fire safe for workers, residents and visitors.
From restaurants and pubs, shops and supermarkets, to hospitals and care homes - all have a legal responsibility to comply with fire safety requirements in order to keep people safe.
KFRS’ Building Safety Team ensures every commercial premises and regulated building within the county, including high rise properties, meets these legal requirements in line with the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order.
The team of inspectors visit properties, provide advice and, where necessary, serve enforcement notices or even pursue prosecutions for those who are not compliant in making their building safe in line with inspectors’ recommendations.
Senior Fire Safety Inspector Louise Burford said: “Any work we do with a business has an impact on the wider community, and ultimately keeps people safe.
“Whether you’re in a local shopping centre, eating in a restaurant, or you have family staying in a hotel, it’s about making sure everyone who lives or visits somewhere in Kent, is safe.”
Louise’s responsibilities include auditing properties to check they are fire compliant, by checking fire doors, escape routes and other fire safety provisions are in place.
She added: “The most rewarding part of my job is being able to walk away from an inspection, and know I have had an impact and made a real difference.
“There’s a particular business I’ve been working with for about a year, which was struggling with fire safety and the owners had difficulty understanding what was required.
“But, they were willing and keen to make sure their premises were safe, and were prepared to do anything they could to make that happen.
“It was great to be able to work with them over a long period of time and see them improve not only their business, but also their knowledge of fire safety.”
Not everyone is so cooperative however. Inspectors have a duty to ensure standards are met, and will serve legal notices where necessary, or in the event of very serious breaches, force the closure of a premises until remedial works are complete.
Louise said: “Some business owners just don’t understand, or don’t know what they should be looking for.
“But, it’s about working with them and showing them that spending a lot now will save them a lot more in the future.
“We want to avoid prosecution wherever possible but we do have a responsibility to enforce the legislation when necessary.”
“At KFRS, we’re here to support everyone in the community and we’re always here to help and offer fire safety advice and support.”
If you would like free, friendly advice on making your business or regulated building fire safety compliant, please call KFRS’ business safety helpline on 01622 212 442 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also go to our business protection portal, where you can generate a report specific to your type of business premises and location.