The Fire (Scotland) Act (2005) requires that employers ensure, as far as is reasonably practical, the safety of all employees against the harm caused by fire in the workplace. Fire remains a major cause of damage, physical harm and fatalities in the workplace. Public buildings and places where groups of people meet are especially at risk.
The main requirement of the Fire (Scotland) Act is for duty holders (in this case, the Charity Trustees of the congregation) to undertake a fire safety risk assessment (FSRA) and consider a number of prescribed fire safety measures to protect employees, volunteers and anyone else using the building. The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 is supported by the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (FSSR), which provide further information and guidance on prescribed fire safety measures and fire safety management.
Please note: The fire safety advice provided in this section of the toolkit is general advice and covers the legal requirements of the FRA and FSSR. However, all congregational buildings are different and it would be impossible to provide guidance to fit all circumstances. A degree of judgement is required and it is strongly advised to seek specialist advice when unsure of how to proceed with fire safety arrangements or when it might be difficult or impractical to apply the requirements described within the toolkit to particular properties. This is especially important when buildings of historical importance are concerned. The Church of Scotland General Trustees and the Church of Scotland Insurance Service (COSIS) will be able to offer additional advice and support and you are strongly advised to contact them in the first instance.
Emergency fire action plan
The Charity Trustees must ensure that there is a written emergency fire action plan in place that sets out the action that must be taken by employees and volunteers in the event of a fire, and to ensure the safe evacuation of properties.
The evacuation of persons from the building cannot be delegated to the fire and rescue services in the first instance. Emergency procedures should clearly establish the actions that all persons should take in the event of discovering fire, or upon hearing the warning of fire, and any additional instructions as necessary.
Procedures should be in written format and be easily understood. For small premises the information and instruction may be written in the form of a simple emergency action notice. For larger premises it is expected that emergency plans will be more robust and provide details on the exact arrangements and roles to be carried out.
Emergency procedures and fire action notices are commonly displayed on notice boards at main entrances and other information focal points within buildings. You should also consider providing a diagram of the building showing the layout of each floor and the location of key fire safety equipment (extinguishers, break glass call points) and the main fire exit routes.
An example of an emergency fire evacuation plan and schematic floor diagram is available in the additional documents section below.
Where evacuations of the building rely on nominated stewards to perform certain functions, such as opening doors or assisting disabled persons, they should receive information and training for their exact roles.
Attention should also be paid to the type of activity the building is being used for and expected occupancy numbers for any given event. Greater stewarding and control for events concerning large numbers of people will be required, including persons at particular risk such as children and the disabled.
Emergency procedures should also be shared with activity groups, leaseholders and contractors prior to bookings, activities or works commencing. Third-party activity groups, leaseholders and contractors may also be asked to provide their own specific emergency evacuation arrangements and fire safety risk assessment dependant on the extent of their control over the building or due to any specific work activities that may increase the overall fire risk to the building. Collaborating and sharing the emergency evacuation plans is recommended to ensure exits and escape routes are sufficient and everyone can work together to ensure quick and efficient evacuation of the building.
Where buildings are used for regular activities by groups, we recommend adopting a terms and conditions of hire which should detail the role and responsibilities of the group leaders concerning the general fire safety precautions that must be followed, as well as emergency evacuation plans for the building.
The complexity and content of emergency fire procedures can vary significantly based on the size and use of each premises. However, as a minimum the key components should include:
- The actions to be taken on hearing the fire alert or on discovering fire
- The location of the fire assembly point
- Arrangements for calling the Fire and Rescue Services and, when necessary, meeting the fire crews on arrival to give a situational report of the incident
- The specific actions performed by persons nominated to assist with evacuations, i.e. informing and directing persons to exit doors, determining the approximate location of fire, checking rooms when exiting, operating fire equipment, assembly point roll call
- Arrangements for the evacuation of persons requiring additional assistance, i.e. wheelchair users, visually or hearing impaired, cognitively impaired
- The procedures for isolating any high-risk processes or critical services such as mains electrical supplies and gas supplies.
It is important to consider how employees, volunteers and visitors with disabilities will be helped from properties and also how to safely evacuate any children or young people. For example, during worship, duty elders could be asked to take responsibility for the safe evacuation of a property in case of emergency. The Charity Trustees may also nominate fire stewards that are familiar with the evacuation plans and building layout to ensure safe evacuation practices.
Fire drills should be carried out regularly to test the effectiveness of the emergency fire evacuation procedure and to allow any persons nominated to assist a level of practice of their exact duties. Drills should be carried out as realistically as possible and be tailored to the needs of the premises. For guidance, conducting 1 or 2 fire drills per 12-month period is normally recommended.
All fire drills should be recorded and the details noted as:
- The time and date of the drill
- The approximate number of people evacuated
- The approximate time taken to clear the building
- The area or room where the fire had been simulated (simulating fires in different areas of the building will identify which escape routes are available to use for any given scenario).
Following a fire drill, we recommend holding discussions to identify any potential weaknesses in procedures or to report any faults in fire equipment i.e. fire doors jammed or locked shut, fire alarm sounders inaudible, slow egress due to high numbers of persons using the same exit.
Note: In premises where the fire alarm system is linked to an alarm receiving centre (ARC) a call should first be made to the receiving centre to notify them of the planned drill /alarm activation. This will prevent any unwanted attendance by the Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire safety enforcement
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are the enforcing authority for relevant premises under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and have the power to access premises at any reasonable time in order to undertake an audit of the fire safety management arrangements. All duty holders and responsible persons have a responsibility to liaise directly with any enforcing officers at the time of the visit and to make available any requested information or records.
Fire Enforcement Officers may give recommendations to improve fire safety by way of:
- Informal verbal recommendations during the visit
- Informal recommendations given in a report following the visit
- Formal action resulting in the issuing of an enforcement notice that requires specific action to be taken or a prohibition notice that restricts the use of part or all of the premises until matters are remedied.
If contacted by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service regarding audits, please inform the General Trustees (Fire Safety Adviser) prior to the agreed date of the visit. Attendance by the General Trustees Safe Buildings Team at the time of the proposed audit can be arranged.
Any enforcement or prohibition notices served following such audits should be reported to the General Trustees Safe Buildings Team immediately.
Fire safety information and training
All staff (including stewards, volunteers, performers, visiting contractors and temporary and agency staff) and other relevant persons should be given information, training and instruction on the fire safety measures to be taken or observed on the premises, including the action to be taken in case of fire. The specific fire safety training needs of any young persons or persons with additional needs should also be considered when determining the content and delivery of training.
Staff training should take place as soon as possible after they are appointed and regularly at predetermined intervals after that, to ensure that they remain familiar with procedures. Information should be given to staff and other relevant persons whenever there is a change in the risk from fire, where changes have been made to the emergency fire action plan or other fire safety measures, or where working practices or people's responsibilities have changed.
It is unrealistic to expect that all visitors accessing the building have read the emergency fire procedures or received fire safety training prior to entry. Therefore, displaying the key emergency actions and other relevant safety notices at focal points throughout the building will allow persons to acquaint themselves as is necessary.
Duty Holders and other persons nominated to assist with the fire safety management of each building should receive basic fire safety training.
A number of external training options are available to congregations and presbyteries:
- Fire Safety Management Training e-learning package
- Session conducted by the GT’s on request
- Attending external fire safety training courses
Training should also be given when persons may be exposed to new or increased fire risks due to a change of duties, the introduction of new equipment or work processes, or where there has been a significant alteration to the building’s layout.
Practical fire extinguisher training
It is a legal requirement to provide extinguishing equipment to fight small fires within buildings. It is therefore beneficial that key personnel are familiar with the location, type and practical use of the portable fire extinguishers available. Suppressing or extinguishing small fires will in turn reduce the potential harm to individuals within premises and can protect the fabric of the building from potentially extensive fire damage.
Fire extinguishers are designed to be used with limited training and display basic operating instructions on the body of each fire extinguisher or fire blanket. However, using supplied fire-fighting equipment shall be an individual judgement call at the time of any fire incident, with careful consideration of their personal safety at all times.
Where it is deemed too dangerous to tackle a blaze it is advised to try and contain it within the room or area of origin by closing doors or windows when evacuating away from the area and dialling 999 immediately.
Note: Records of fire safety training undertaken should be held on site, either electronically or in paper-based format, for audit purposes by the local enforcing authority, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire safety policy
The Charity Trustees must ensure that there is a clearly defined fire safety policy for the protection of everyone who uses church properties, including staff, volunteers and visitors. The fire safety policy is similar to the health and safety policy and should include arrangements for planning, organising, controlling, monitoring and reviewing the fire safety measures taken.
Fire Safety Risk Assessment (FSRA)
The FSRA is an essential element in the overall health and safety policy of any premises. It is an organised and methodical look at buildings and the activities taking place within them so that the likelihood of fire can be established and the harm that it could cause to the people in and around buildings can be assessed. If fire safety measures are already in place, such as fire alarms or fire extinguishers, these are reviewed during the FSRA to establish if they are still appropriate or if more action is required. FSRA templates for both large and small churches are available in our Templates and Documents section below.
The FSRA should be specific to the fire safety arrangements in the premises to which it applies. A general risk assessment is not appropriate when considering fire hazards and risks.
It is legally required that all relevant operational premises carry out a fire safety risk assessment. The content of the fire safety risk assessment should be proportionate to the risk, the complexity of the building and the number and type of persons occupying the building. Any remedial actions required, where identified by the assessment process, should be acted upon in a timely manner with respect to the cost and the risk to life. Action plans would therefore be expected to show suggested timescales for any improvement to be completed., When completed, they should be signed off by the duty holder (Charity Trustees).
Fire safety risk assessments should be carried out by persons determined as competent, or by the duty holder where individuals have the capability to assess fire risks within their own premises. External fire safety specialists or risk assessors may also be used to carry out the assessment on the behalf of the duty holders.
The key principles of the risk assessment process will allow a degree of flexibility when it comes to the challenges of applying modern fire safety standards to existing and historic premises.
Congregational properties are generally considered to be low-risk in terms of fire safety. However, this depends on building location, structure, fabric, activities undertaken and those who might be at risk.
Five steps of a FSRA
To carry out a suitable and sufficient FSRA, it is important to consider each of the following five points as described within the Scottish Government's fire safety guidance booklet.
Please refer to the risk management section of this toolkit for advice on who should carry out the FSRA for properties. There is no prescribed template in the legislation for a FSRA. However, a template is available below.
Step 1 – Identify people at risk
Describe who works in or uses your properties (inside and outside), including visitors and contractors, and how often they use the buildings. It is also necessary to consider and document the age range of users (including the very young, children, and the elderly), the maximum number of people who can safely use buildings at any one time, and those with disabilities.
Step 2 – Identify fire hazards
For a fire to start, there has to be a source of ignition, fuel, and oxygen. If one of these components is missing, a fire cannot start. It is important to stop these three components from coming together to prevent a fire from starting.
Potential ignition sources are those where sources of heat could become hot enough to ignite material found in the premises, including:
- Discarded smoking material
- Naked flames such as candles, gas open-flamed equipment
- Electrical, gas, or oil-filled heaters
- Hot processes such as repair work
- Cooking equipment
- Lighting equipment such as lamps
- Deliberate fire raising
- Faulty electrical installation and equipment
Potential sources of fuel, sometimes referred to as combustibles, include fixtures such as pews, other wooden fittings, contents, and the physical structure of properties. For example:
- Textiles, soft furnishings and clothing
- Flammable liquids and solvents
- Flammable chemicals & gases
- Seasonal decorations
- Stored woods and furniture
The main source of oxygen within properties is from open windows and doors. However, any structural defects might also be a significant source of oxygen. Some chemicals are oxidising and may provide additional sources of oxygen if used or stored incorrectly.
Step 3 – Evaluate the risk and decide if existing fire safety measures are adequate
The chances of a fire starting will be low if there are few ignition sources. However, properties should be critically examined to identify any potential accidents, acts, or omissions which might allow a fire to start. Good housekeeping practices and procedures should aim to reduce or eliminate the storage of any paperwork, cardboard, unused paints, fuels, gases, wood and other combustibles being stored within the buildings, especially in closed cupboards and in close proximity to gas or electrical installations.
It is important to consider the likelihood of deliberate fire raising as part of this evaluation.
Having considered the chances of a fire starting and the people likely to be at risk, the extent of the actual risk to those people must be considered. For example, the possibility of:
- Fire starting on a lower floor, affecting the escape route for people on upper floors, especially when there is only one escape route
- Fire developing near the only final exit
- Fire and smoke spreading because of open windows and doors
- Fire and smoke spreading through large open areas, such as a sanctuary
- Fire and smoke affecting the behaviour of people in the property
Step 4 – Record FSRA information
Once the FSRA has been carried out, the findings must be recorded, including any action taken or to be taken in future. The record must be kept on the property and all employees and other relevant people such as volunteers must be made aware of its contents. The fire service may also wish to see a copy of the record if they visit a property.
Although the Fire (Scotland) Act requires that a record is kept if five or more employees are employed, the Church of Scotland requires that all congregations keep a record of their FSRA and any further action taken to control the risks of fire.
Step 5 – Review of FSRA
FSRAs should be reviewed regularly. If the findings of the assessment are no longer considered to be valid, a significant change has taken place affecting a property, or organisation of the work undertaken has affected the fire risk or the fire safety measures, the assessment should be reviewed. Situations which might prompt a review include:
- A change in the number of people present or the characteristics of the occupants, including the presence of people with some form of disability
- Changes to work procedures, including the introduction of new equipment
- Alterations to the building, including the internal layout
- Significant changes to furniture and fixings
- Significant changes to displays or quantities of stock
- An introduction or increase in the storage of hazardous substances
- Becoming aware of shortcomings in fire safety measures or potential improvements.
General fire safety precautions
A fire needs heat, oxygen and fuel. If any of these components is missing, then a fire cannot start. If none of these components can be removed, then it’s important to appropriately manage the risk to reduce the likelihood of fire or to limit fire growth and spread.
At its simplest, this means separating combustible items and flammable substances from potential ignition sources, reducing held volumes of any non-essential combustible materials, and ensuring that equipment and installations within the building are appropriately used and maintained.
Appropriate practices to reduce the likelihood of fire should include but are not limited to:
Housekeeping and storage
- Avoid storing combustible materials within IT server rooms, boiler rooms, kitchens, mains electrical cupboards or electrical sub-switch rooms
- Avoid storing combustible materials close to or in direct contact with appliances/equipment that give off significant heat and that require ventilation, cooking appliances or naked flames such candles
- Reduce the volume of held combustible materials throughout the building and ensure unwanted items and other waste is removed regularly
- Avoid storing items and combustible materials along main escape routes, stairwells and near fire exits
- Avoid large, unbroken runs of paper or textile displays along escape route corridors, escape stairs and adjacent to fire exit doors.
- Any chemicals, dangerous substances, materials, and equipment must be evaluated and stored appropriately
- All equipment used within congregational properties must be used as per manufacturers' instructions
- Suitable arrangements and precautions must be in place to ensure the safe management of building, alteration and remedial work
Deliberate or wilful fire setting (Arson)
- Premises should be secured against unauthorised access during and out with working hours
- External waste or recycling bins should be secured by locking the lids or chaining them in place or should be located away from the premises if necessary (this may be particularly relevant where a premise has a history of vandalism or fire setting)
- Use any provided CCTV and external/internal lighting.
- Regularly maintain fixed and portable electrical equipment/systems
- Ensure provided equipment is appropriately used. Signs and instructions on the safe use of equipment may be necessary.
- Have procedures in place for reporting faulty equipment and ensure any faulty equipment is taken out of use
- Isolate non-essential equipment where it is not in use for long periods, i.e. overnights, weekends and holiday periods
- Ensure plug sockets and extension leads are not overloaded. Avoid any load totalling more than 13 Amps per socket or extension lead.
- Enforce a no smoking policy within premises. Use signs at key focal points if necessary.
- Define areas where smoking is permitted out with the building and provide means for extinguishing smoking materials, i.e. ashtrays, sand buckets
Hot works, heat-generating equipment, cooking, dangerous substances
- Heat-generating activities such as welding, soldering and grinding should be strictly controlled and subject to risk assessment or permit to work. Suitable means for fighting fire, such as portable fire extinguishers, should also be provided
- Establish designated areas for cooking and supervise all activities
- Ensure any air extraction filters and ducting are appropriately maintained and cleaned
- Substances labelled explosive, oxidising, flammable or any dust which can form an explosive mixture with air or an explosive atmosphere should be appropriately risk assessed and suitably stored in limited volumes and control measures should be implemented to eliminate or to reduce the risks of fire or explosion.
Incident reporting of near misses and fire
Incidents of fire and near misses should be reported as soon as possible by contacting the General Trustees' Fire Safety Adviser directly by telephone or by email, email@example.com.
Maintenance of fire safety measures and equipment
In all premises, including those not usually staffed or those used on a relatively infrequent basis, emergency routes and exits, firefighting equipment, fire alarms, emergency lighting, fire and rescue service facilities and other fire safety measures must be regularly maintained and tested to ensure it is operational and in effective working order.
Regular in-house testing of the system, such as functionality of emergency lighting and fire alarms, can easily be done by trained members of staff.
Testing that can be carried out in-house includes:
- Fire alarm system
- Visual inspection of the control panel to ensure it is active and indicates normal operation: Daily
- Test of the alarm system by using a test key to activate a manual break glass call point, using a different call point each successive week (Where alarm systems are linked to alarm receiving centres, the centre should be notified prior to any test): Weekly
- Test of any other means of raising the alarm e.g. hand bell, klaxon horn: Weekly
- Test of domestic smoke alarms by activating the test button: Weekly
- Emergency lighting systems
- A test to simulate power failure should be carried out to determine that emergency lighting luminaires are functioning: Monthly
- Visual inspection to ensure there are no obvious faults / defects. (Frequency of this visual inspection can be reduced or increased where necessary): Monthly
- Fire exit doors, fire doors and doors on hold open devices
- Visual inspection of all fire exits to ensure they are unlocked and operational and available for us: Daily
- Doors that are held open by automatic release mechanisms should be released to test functionality and released overnight: Daily
- Hold open devices should be tested to ensure they operate on activation of the fire alarm or upon failure of the power supply: Weekly
- Water sprinkler and gaseous suppression systems
- The installer shall provide the user with a documented inspection and test procedure bespoke to the system that will enable the user to carry out regular inspections
- Smoke exhaust ventilation and control systems
- Actuation of system should be carried out to ensure that any fans and powered exhaust ventilators operate correctly and that smoke dampers close (or open for some system types) and that natural exhaust ventilators open: Weekly
Any identified faults or failures in the system should be reported to the maintenance engineers.
Each day that a property is used, a general walk through should take place to ensure that escape routes are clear from obstructions and that any fire detection system is working. All emergency escape doors must be operational and any emergency lighting working.
All other fire safety measures, including fire extinguishers, should be checked on a monthly basis to ensure that they are in the correct location and operational.
Most fire safety equipment and systems require certified inspection and testing (typically once a year) by a competent person who has detailed knowledge of such systems. Competent persons to carry out any certified periodic maintenance should be sourced locally or nationally by each congregation.
It should be noted that the provision of fire safety equipment within premises will vary dependant on the size, use and complexity of each building. The frequency of testing may also be dependant the use and operational hours of specific buildings.
Appendix 1 of this guide gives detailed maintenance and testing requirements, including frequencies for all common types of fire equipment likely provided within premises.
Note: In the event that any provided fire safety equipment may be offline or inactive for substantial periods of time, i.e. in the event of the failure of the fire alarm system, suitable reactive contingency measures should be implemented as necessary. Please contact the General Trustees for further information and advice.
See the utilities section of the toolkit for gas and electrical safety certification and maintenance.
Managing fire safety
It is important for the Charity Trustees to demonstrate a congregation-wide commitment to fire safety within church properties and to promote a positive culture towards the risks of fire. The Financial Board must ensure that the outcomes from the FSRA are used to develop a suitable:
- Fire safety policy for properties
- Emergency fire action plan which must be kept on the property in question at all times
- Fire safety information and training plan
- Maintenance programme of the fire safety measures in place
- Robust recording of information and record keeping
Section 55 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 requires that the following principles be considered when implementing fire safety measures:
- Avoiding risks
- Evaluating risks which cannot be avoided
- Combating risks at source
- Adapting to technical progress
- Replacing the dangerous with the non-dangerous or less dangerous
- Developing a coherent overall fire prevention policy which covers technology, organisation of work and the influence of factors relating to the working environment
- Giving collective fire safety protective measures priority over individual measures
- Giving appropriate instructions to employees
Following identification of fire hazards, the risks should be avoided by removing or reducing sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen. If hazards cannot be removed, measures should be taken to reduce the risks. Fire safety measures should be put in place to reduce the likelihood of fire and the spread of fire, to provide means of escape, to fight fire, to detect fire and give warning, to arrange for action in the event of fire, and for training.
Manses and domestic properties
Under the new Scottish Government regulations, every home in Scotland must meet the ‘Tolerable Standard’ by having:
- Carbon monoxide detectors fitted within 1-2 meters of each gas-fired appliance including the boiler system
- Suitable interlinked fire detection devices fitted – one smoke alarm in the living room, one in every hall or landing and a heat detecting alarm in every kitchen.
All Church of Scotland manses and domestic dwellings which are occupied by ministers and their families or leased to private tenants must be compliant under the new regulations.
Provision of fire alarms and fire extinguishers
Fire safety legislation states that, within buildings, there must be means for giving warning of and fighting fires.
A fire warning system will alert occupants to a fire incident and allow the emergency fire evacuation plan to be implemented. In small properties where an outbreak of fire may be immediately obvious, activating a hand-operated sounder or shouting: ‘Fire!’ from any one point in the building may be sufficient to raise the warning to all occupants.
In larger, more complex properties, particularly in buildings with more than one floor or those that are multi-occupied, a shout from any single point in the building might not be sufficient to raise the warning to all occupants simultaneously, and so a manual or automatic integrated electrical fire system may be required.
Means to fight fire should be provided by portable fire extinguishers, located at key points throughout the building. Suppressing or extinguishing small fires by the use of portable fire extinguishers will in turn reduce the potential harm to individuals within premises and can protect the fabric of the building from potentially extensive fire damage. It is therefore beneficial that key personnel are familiar with the location, type and use of the portable fire extinguishers provided to each building.
Further advice and information regarding the provision of automatic fire detection and firefighting equipment within congregational properties can be obtained from either the Church of Scotland General Trustees or the COSIS.
Recording information and keeping records
The Financial Board must keep adequate information and records to demonstrate compliance with fire safety legislation. This includes information on:
- Significant findings from the FSRA
- Fire safety measures implemented and any further action to be taken
- Persons especially at risk
- A copy of the emergency fire action plan
- Details of training, education and information provided
- Maintenance records of specific fire equipment such as the fire alarm system and fire extinguishers
A fire logbook is available in the documents section below.
Churches often contain important manuscripts, tapestries, paintings, silverware and other valuable artefacts which merit efforts to save in case of fire or other emergency. Churches should therefore consider implementing a salvage plan which details the location of the most valuable artefacts to be saved and how they can be safely retrieved during an emergency.
Efforts to save identified items will be dependent on the location and severity of the fire and the ease by which each item can be removed. These efforts should not impede or delay the main evacuation of all occupants or calling of the emergency services. At the time of a fire incident the retrieval and removal of specific valuable items may need to be assessed dynamically where safe to do so.
Salvage plans should be kept up to date with relevant contact details of the persons nominated to carry out retrievals. Pictures of specific items and locations within the building, including how they are to be removed, may also be beneficial when structuring the salvage plan. Salvage plans can also be shared with the emergency services or fire crew if in attendance.
Suitable and sufficient fire safety considerations
In order to achieve suitable fire safety standards, it is vital that the Charity Trustees and other nominated competent persons be committed to the basics of fire safety management.
The following key management areas should be addressed:
- Undertaking a fire safety risk assessment (FSRA) and acting on any identified risks
- Implementing Emergency Fire Evacuation Procedures and Arrangements, including fire drills and, where appropriate, salvage plans
- Providing key fire safety information, instruction, training and supervision to occupants as necessary to their extent of control over the building
- Implementing a suitable regime of maintenance and testing for all provided fire safety equipment, i.e. fire extinguishers, fire detection, alarm systems, fire exits, fixed and portable electrical systems, heating systems or similar installations likely to impact fire safety
- Recording and maintaining records of fire safety risk assessment findings, equipment inspection and maintenance regimes and fire safety training records
- Implementing general fire safety precautions and risk-reduction principles.
The Charity Trustees and other members of the congregation are best placed to carry out a FSRA, as they know their buildings best. A small group of volunteers should be tasked with undertaking this. It is the responsibility of all Charity Trustees to ensure that the outcomes from the FSRA are implemented. If the Charity Trustees do not feel that they are comfortable, confident, or competent to carry out a FSRA, please contact the Church of Scotland General Trustees or the COSIS for further advice and guidance.
UFAS and duty holder fire investigation
Fire Investigation and Changes to SFRS UFAS Response from 01/07/2023
The investigation requirement into all fire alarm activations within premises is in response to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) initiative to cease all attendance of Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals (UFAS) throughout Scotland as of the 1 July 2023.
This is a national decision taken by the SFRS to re- assert the Duty holders' responsibilities for Unwanted fire alarm activations and false alarms, this aims to minimise the SFRS attendance to Unwanted fire alarm activations which is limiting their resources and impacting response times to actual identified fire incidents across Scotland.
''SFRS will no longer automatically respond to fire alarm activations the duty holder will be responsible for the fire investigation and the 999 callers will be call challenged for confirmation of Fire, Smoke, Smell, or risk to life prior to SFRS response.
There is no exemption for the building's significance, listing or heritable value, and this re-assertion of the duty-holder's responsibilities will need to be managed locally to minimise the risk to any church buildings.
This will include all church buildings including the ones which are fitted with sophisticated fire detection systems which are monitored via an external ARC (Alarm Receiving Centre). The ARC will still be required to communicate the existence of fire, smoke or smell prior to any fire appliances being dispatched. (They will accept that where the ARC has indicated that more than one detector has been activated within a building that this is a strong indicator of fire and will respond accordingly).
Previously where a fire was suspected, evacuating the building and calling 999 would immediately prompt a response from the fire service and this would ensure the dispatch of fire services to call at the location and carry out the fire investigation and take the necessary actions, this response model will now be replaced with a "Call Challenge" which will require the 999 caller to confirm the existence of Fire/Smoke/Smell prior to the dispatch of the fire services.
You should now review your current fire safety risk assessments and local evacuation procedures and ensure that the duty holder(s) responsible for the fire safety at your building(s) has made suitable and safe arrangements for evacuation and safe fire investigation protocols prior to the 999-emergency call or response to the (ARC) Alarm Receiving Centre.
Please refer to the Activated Fire Alarm (AFA) guidance document attached to the links below to assist with ensuring safe investigation protocols and evacuation of the building(s).
For Further Information and guidance refer to the other fire safety guidance within the online health and safety toolkit or contact:
The General Trustees Fire Safety Officer Robert Speedie on 0131 3766343 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Templates, links and documents
- Activated Fire Alarm (AFA) Procedure - May 2023
- Appendix 1: Table of testing and maintenance frequencies
- Evacuation Plan Template
- Fire (Scotland) Act 2005
- Fire Logbook
- Fire Risk Assessment Template Large Church
- Fire Risk Assessment Template Small Church
- Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006
- Salvage Grab Sheet Example