Recent high profile fires serve to highlight the dangerous and destructive nature of uncontrolled fire.
The cost of fire damage to UK business runs into many millions of pounds, and the projected loss of income to the UK economy is in excess of £1.1 billion annually.
Behind these figures lie many harrowing individual cases where organisations and individuals have suffered very large financial losses and all too often these incidents can be accompanied by tragic human consequences.
Significant business interruption is an inevitable consequence of such disasters, and even where much of the initial loss is covered by insurance, this only has the effect of deferring the costs to subsequent years premiums, and the actual losses are almost always far in excess of the insured losses. The effects of major fire incidents are often reflected on the bottom line, long after the physical effects of the fire damage have been rectified.
Another crippling business effect of any major fire is the amount of management time consumed; both directly connected with the actual incident, and also in relation to the trauma of dealing with the aftermath and consequences of the event.
In common with other major health and safety incidents, investigations following a serious fire almost always conclude that had effective and robust fire safety management systems been in place, the incident would either not have occurred, or at the very least the effects and consequences would have been minimised.
Another common link are the acts, or omissions, of groups or individual’s that can be shown to have caused or contributed to the incident.
Hindsight almost always highlights a simple remedy. The facts are that in the early years of the 21st century, the technology, the systems and information to prevent and/or control unwanted fires exists and is readily available, and much can be done to significantly improve fire safety without spending vast amounts of money.
So realistically what can be done?
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