What to expect when the Fire Officer calls

The first in our series ‘What to expect…’, our in-house Fire Risk Assessor Terry McMullen provides some invaluable tips so you’re ready for that knock on the door from the local Fire Officer. Terry is an ex-Fire Officer from Greater Manchester Fire Service, with experience in both the local authority and private sector.

Preparing for your inspection is key. According to gov.uk, the aim of the visit from a Fire Officer is to:

Your local fire and rescue authority visits premises to check the fire risk assessment and fire prevention measures are appropriate. Fire safety officers should help you understand the rules and comply with them. They can also take action if they think your fire safety measures aren’t adequate.’

Whilst most Officers will announce when their visit is going to be, they do not have to disclose this information, so we asked Terry some key questions so you can prepare.

What will happen during a Fire Officer visit?

The Officer will walk around the premises and check that:

• Work practices are in line with the fire safety law
• Fire extinguishers are fitted and suitable
• All notices are displayed clearly e.g. fire action and fire escape notices
• All emergency lighting is working clearly
• Fire documentation is easily accessible

What documents will an Officer look for?

• The latest Fire Risk Assessment (to check that any defects have been rectified)
• The fire log book or electronic records, including:
• Fire alarm service record and weekly tests
• Emergency lighting annual contractor service and in-house monthly tests
• Fire extinguisher annual contractor service record and in-house monthly checks
• Mains electrics 5 yearly check and test certificate
• PAT test records
• Mains heating system annual service record
• Deep clean certificate of any extraction system for commercial kitchens (if applicable)
• Records of staff fire training
• Records of fire evacuation drills


Be confident for the next inspection. Speak to one of our team today to find out how we can help.

What are the common issues found during an Officer inspection?

• Wedges left in fire doors. Recently discussed in our infographic Fire Doors: Breaking the rules, 280 of 1000 employees didn’t know that it is actually illegal to prop open a fire door
• Combustible materials are often stored in areas where they shouldn’t – for example in the electrical cupboard. Watch out during the busy Christmas period when ordering extra stock!
• Additional stock also means that many businesses have nowhere to store packaging – so ensure that stock isn’t blocking fire exits
• With British temperatures plummeting, portable heaters are on the rise…. But did you know that these appliances are high-wattage and have the potential to ignite when placed near to combustible materials? We suggest you opt for an extra layer instead
• Bin compounds left unsecure are a prime opportunity for arsonists. Arson remains the biggest single cause of fire in England and Wales, so avoid this risk by preventing easy access

Fire can have devastating effects on a business, so it’s not only essential that you’re prepared for the Official Officer visit, but also that you are compliant at all times.

What happens if something goes wrong?

If an Inspector finds a breach of the Fire Safety law, the action in which they take will depend on the nature of the breach. Enforcement action can be taken in several ways:


If the breach is somewhat minor, the Officer may tell the Responsible Person how to comply with the law and explain why. This can be confirmed in writing.

Enforcement Notice

If the breach is serious, an enforcement notice may be issued so the Responsible Person knows how to comply with the law. The notice will include what needs to be done, why and when. This is usually within 21 days to allow the duty holder time to appeal to a magistrates court if desired.

Alteration Notice

This should state that the enforcing authority is of the opinion that the premises causes a serious risk to persons

You must:

• Carry out a Fire Risk Assessment
• If required, improve your Fire Safety measures
• Reduce your risks and keep your measures under review

The Responsible Person must acknowledge the risk to relevant persons and reduce it to a reasonable level and inform the Local Authority of the changes made.

Prohibition Notice

If an activity involves a serious risk posing imminent danger, emergency powers can be used to prohibit or limit the use of the workplace until the risk has been acceptably reduced. This notice explains why the action is necessary.


An Official Officer may initiate a prosecution for failing to comply with the law.

Are you prepared?

Shield Safety produce tailored Fire Safety Management Systems with specific safety procedures, provide advice through our unique Helpline Service and have experienced Fire Safety Practitioners who can assist you further.

Tailored fire safety management systems, expert advice through our Safety Advice Line and more. Fill out the form below to discuss our fire safety solutions with our team.

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Prefer to chat to us over the phone? Call Steven on 020 3740 3744

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official Food Safety, Fire Safety and Health & Safety advice. Shield Safety take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shield Safety services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email hello@shieldsafety.co.uk.


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