Millions of people in the UK work in retail buildings. Shops vary widely in size, layout and function. Many are small stand alone, single storey units whilst some are multi storey buildings or department stores. Building age varies widely with some old and listed buildings often including wooden floors. Large scale shopping centres present particular fire safety issues. Fire safety training must take account of the specific environment your staff operate from and the key fire safety issues that affect shops.
In 2013-14 there were 22,200 fires recorded in buildings that were not dwellings. Over 2000 of these occurred in offices
PEOPLE AT RISK
Retail premises offer unmanaged access to a cross section of the public. These will include families with children, the elderly and people with disabilities. In the event of a fire in a large shop or shopping centre, the need to efficiently evacuate all classes of occupants is a major challenge. These issues are covered in UK Fire Training courses
Retail premises have many goods which represent a high fire load include racks of clothing, fabrics, soft furnishings, rolls of carpet, arrays of suitcases and shoes. Other goods may appear innocuous but are dangerous, such as aerosol containers containing LPG as a propellant, packets of potato crisps, oil-based
paint, paint thinners and other solvents in plastic containers, and containers of LPG in DIY stores, engineers’ stores and car accessory stores.
UK Fire Training courses look in detail at how to manage and minimise the risk from combustible items in shops.
FIRE PROTECTION SYSTEMS
Retail premises obviously vary tremendously in size and layout, from a corner
shop to a large department store in a shopping centre. In the latter case, varied and sophisticated fire protection systems will be incorporated and these need to take account of in any fire training. These include automatic fire detection,
sprinklers / automatic fire suppression, smoke curtains, and smoke and heat exhaust and ventilation systems.
Many large stores and shopping centers incorporate food preparation areas and food courts. Cooking equipment is a major cause of fire and the issues created are taken into account in UK Fire Training courses.
RETAIL FIRE EXAMPLES
Record fine of £400,000 for New Look
The Oxford Street store was fined £400,000 for having inadequate emergency exits and poorly trained staff, was also ordered to pay more than £136,000 costs for what Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said could have been a 'disaster almost too awful to contemplate'.
The store was filled with early evening shoppers. Even though the alarm sounded, it was mysteriously turned off and customers were allowed to continue making purchases. Even when it reset itself and began again, staff failed to react.
Passers-by shouted warnings that there was a problem, 'panicking' they ordered everyone out.
The court was told that by the time people began streaming through the front door, smoke was billowing from the building and windows were being blown out.
A 999 call from the store was made by a security guard just before 7pm on April 26, 2007 - several minutes after the manager of a building opposite had already alerted the emergency services.
One shopper said: 'Staff within the shop did not seem to have a plan to evacuate people. 'They went from no cause for alarm, to panic.'
The court heard that all 150 people in the clothing retailer's store managed to escape unharmed, while another 300 were cleared from neighboring premises.
Prosecutor Sada Naqshbandi said 30 Fire Brigade appliances ended up at the scene.
'The West End became gridlocked as traffic was diverted from the area and fire fighters worked through the night.'
The blaze, which 'virtually gutted' the building, forcing its demolition, was later found to have started in the second floor storeroom. The cause was never discovered.
New Look Retailers Ltd pleaded guilty to two counts.
They were fined £250,000 for failing to provide a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment for the premises and a further £150,000 for inadequate safety training to staff.
The £400,000 total is not only the largest imposed on a company in Britain for fire safety contraventions since new legislation came into force in 2006, but is thought to be the biggest ever financial penalty for such breaches.
Fire at large retail distribution centre near Bristol thought to have affected stock in Tesco stores across city
DELIVERIES to Tesco stores in Bristol were disrupted over the weekend by a fire at one of its regional distribution centres.
Firefighters battled the blaze, which is understood to have been at an outside recycling warehouse at Tesco’s giant regional distribution centre in Western Approach, Hallen on Friday 13th February 2015, into the early hours of Saturday morning.
Seven fire crews attended the blaze, which took four hours to get under control.
They arrived at 10pm on Friday to find a warehouse and vehicle bay completely smoke logged, which a spokesman said made the fire “particularly hard” to tackle.
Avon Fire and Rescue Service said the fire was believed to have been caused accidentally by a recycling compactor and conveyor belt.
A Tesco spokesman told the Post: “There was a small fire in a recycling plant adjoining our distribution centre in Avonmouth late on Friday evening.
“The fire service attended the scene and no-one was hurt.
“The centre was evacuated for a short period of time and our colleagues worked incredibly hard to get the centre back up and running as soon as possible.
“We will be assisting the emergency services with their investigations into the cause.”