What does a fire warden do?

What is a fire warden?

It is a legal requirement, as stated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), in articles 13, 15 and 18, for the responsible person (the person responsible for fire safety) to appoint one or more competent persons to assist them in undertaking preventative and protective measures to minimise the risk of fire. A fire warden or fire marshal is a competent person who has been appointed to undertake these measures.

The role of a fire warden or fire marshal

It is important to appoint fire wardens or fire marshals to help meet health and safety obligations. Their role will depend on the nature and size of the premises. However, fire warden or fire marshal duties include:

  • making sure everyone evacuates the building in a safe and timely manner
  • making sure the area is visually searched to ensure no one is left behind

Additional day to day responsibilities for marshals and wardens could include:

  • monitoring fire safety through frequent visual checks of fire escape routes, fire exit and final fire exit doorsets for obstructions, defects, signage and operational conditions
  • monitoring your areas, with frequent visual checks on fire equipment
  • ensuring the people in your area can hear the fire alarms
  • assisting the responsible person with the emergency plan
  • giving fire briefings to occupants to ensure everyone understands what emergency procedures to follow in the event of a fire in the workplace, fire safety action instructions, and familiarisation with fire escape routes and assembly points
  • assisting management, HR or occupational professionals with personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs)
  • reporting faults and unsafe practices
  • controlling the safe evacuation of your area
  • supporting fire evacuation drills
  • assisting with general health and safety for your area

How does a fire warden or fire marshal sweep a building?

Fire wardens and fire marshals sweep a building in the direction of travel of escape routes and final fire exits. Wardens and marshals sweep their areas first then visually sweep any adjacent rooms, cupboards, stores or toilets en route to the direction of travel to escape routes and final fire exits.

How does a fire warden or fire marshal respond when they hear a first stage fire alarm?

  • advise people the alarm is to inform them there is a fire situation in the building
  • ask people to sweep their area for signs of fire or smoke, and if they discover a fire, alert people, and raise the alarm by manual call point
  • close windows, doors, and cupboards
  • turn off fans, heaters, and non-critical equipment
  • put important documents away to reduce the level of combustibles in the area
  • implement any PEEP pre-evacuation instructions
  • stay alert, and be prepared to evacuate if the fire evacuation alarm is given

How does a fire warden or fire marshal respond when they hear a second stage alarm?

  • advise people the alarm is to inform them there is a fire situation in the building, and that they need to evacuate the building
  • implement the PEEPs, and ensure these acknowledge people in refuge points
  • advise people not to delay their evacuation by finishing a task or collecting their belongings
  • close windows, doors, and cupboards, if safe to do so
  • make a visual sweep of the area for people and additional fire or smoke
  • if you find people that do not want to evacuate the building, be polite and request these people leave; if they still remain at the location, you must leave the area, and when en route to the fire assembly point advise the person in charge of the person(s) remaining inside and their location(s)
  • if you discover a fire whilst sweeping the area, you must activate the nearest manual call point (even if there is an evacuation alarm going on), and if trained, consider tackling fires (see article 13 of the FSO)
  • close doors as you leave the area and sweep adjoint rooms as you leave the building
  • en route to the assembly point, advise the person in charge of the people in refuge points and whether the area is clear or not clear of people, fire, and smoke
  • go to the assembly point and ensure people stay in the location until further instructions are received

If your company requires you to complete a roll call, now is the time to complete it and then advise the person in charge as to whether everyone is accounted for or missing.

When is it safe for a warden or fire marshal to tackle fire?

You should only tackle a very small fire (smaller than the size of a waste bin) if you have been trained and are competent enough to extinguish.

You should only tackle a fire if:

  • the alarm has been raised
  • everyone has been evacuated from the area
  • fire and rescue services have been called (or your in-house fire emergency response team should you have one)
  • you have a safe escape route, and the fire is not between you and this route
  • you use the correct type of fire extinguishers for the fire type

You must leave the fire if:

  • the fire starts to spread
  • your escape route becomes hindered by smoke
  • the fire extinguisher has been fully discharged
  • you have extinguished the fire – and you must advise the person in charge as to any additional fire safety investigation

Do not tackle a fire if:

  • the room is filled with smoke or the fire is spreading
  • other hazards are present
  • the fire cannot be extinguished with one fire extinguisher
  • there are not two persons present (the person tackling the fire and another fire warden or fire marshal acting as the additional eyes on the situation)

Day to day and weekly checks for fire wardens and marshals

There are several duties under the responsible person’s responsibilities to ensure that the premises are complaint with UK fire legislation. There are some duties that can be designated to the fire warden and fire marshal including:

  • ensuring that the fire alarm is tested and that the alarm can be heard in your area
  • preventing fire by ensuring that housekeeping in their area is satisfactory, and there is no build up of combustible materials
  • ensuring that portable and fixed firefighting equipment is in position and free from obstructions
  • ensuring that fire doors are not wedged open and are in working order
  • ensuring that the fire escape routes have no combustible or flammable materials stored in them, and flammable materials are not within 3 metres of the escape route
  • ensuring that the fire signage is visible, clear and not damaged
  • ensuring that the fire assembly point is clear of obstructions
  • reporting any deviations immediately for resolution

Monthly checks for fire wardens and marshals

  • confirming that the emergency lighting has been tested
  • ensuring that all portable and fixed firefighting equipment is serviced and within the next test date
  • ensuring that the portable electrical equipment used is tested
  • ensuring that a fire drill has been completed over the last 12 months
  • reporting any deviations immediately for resolution

The Fire Protection Association delivers 2 comprehensive fire warden training courses (also known as fire marshal training) covering both commercial and residential properties. To find out more, please click here.