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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Fire Safety Management

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Fire Safety Management


Current Version Adopted by Committee:  June 2019

Review Date:  Easter Term 2022          

Committee Ownership: Domestic, Events and Estates


This document provides guidance on the College responsibilities, with regard to fire maintenance, and operational management of the fabric and services, of all buildings and property owned, or used, by Murray Edwards College.

  1. Introduction

The Maintenance Department is responsible, for the maintenance and management of the fabric and services of all Murray Edwards College buildings; leased or rented buildings (unless otherwise arranged through leasehold or other agreements).

Services include, centrally provided fixed installations, up to, and including, the point of delivery:

  • Electrical installation (mains)
  • Building heating system
  • Room / Building ventilation and air conditioning systems (as applicable)
  • Communications: Fire and burglar alarms and safety systems
  • Communications: Telephones, data (infrastructure only)
  • Drainage
  • Piped gases
  • Hot, cold and mains water supply
  • Passenger and Goods Lifts
  • Boiler and calorifier plant

The Senior Fire Officer will assess the fire safety risk for all such buildings (unless otherwise arranged through leasehold or other agreements) by a formal Fire Risk Assessment process. A Risk Reduction Action Plan will be created and reviewed yearly.

  1. Senior Fire Officer

The College has appointed a competent person to act as the Senior Fire Officer. The Senior Fire Officer, will have day-to-day responsibility, for ensuring the College remains compliant with the requirements of the Health and Safety Policy, current legislation and building control

  1. Fire Risk Assessments

College buildings will be assessed biannually by an approved fire consultant and by a competent person on every other year. Resulting in the college’s fire risk being assed every year. This assessment will be recorded and stored collectively, noting any action required, in the Risk Reduction Action Plans. The following area will be assessed:-

    • Building structure and design.
    • Fire resistance of fixtures and fittings.
    • Activities carried out in the building.
    • Number and location of building occupants.
    • Existing fire safety systems / control /equipment.
    • Impact on others e.g. neighbours, Emergency Services.

The Senior Fire Officer will review the Fire Risk Assessments, prioritising and implementing actions in the Risk Reduction Action Plans, where practicable, as per the hierarchy of controls and risk level. Following this process, the Senior Fire Officer will maintain copies of Fire Risk Assessments, in a central location, with relevant information (including updates) distributed throughout the College and Departments, as necessary. The Senior Fire Officer will also make copies available to the Fire and Rescue Service, as appropriate

  1. Training and Information

The Senior Fire Officer, will develop appropriate Emergency Response / Fire Alarm Activation procedures, ensuring that suitable training, on such procedures, is provided to relevant staff, Fire Wardens. Refresher training will be provided as necessary.

  1. Fire Precautions

Fire presents the greatest single threat to life and property. It is therefore ESSENTIAL to familiarise yourself with the measure designed to protect you and others in the event of a fire.

Personal Preparation 

  • Read the Fire Action signs posted by fire alarm call points, staircases and within bedrooms.
  • Know the location of the fire alarm call-points, situated on every staircase or corridor, and ensure you know how to operate them.
  • Know your escape route and make sure it is kept clear of obstructions.
  • Ensure that fire doors (marked as such and intended to impede the spread of smoke, flames and hot gasses) are always closed, and not propped open.
  • Report any missing, or damaged, fire appliances to the Maintenance Department or Senior Fire Officer.
  • DO NOT tamper with fire appliances or detectors, or allow others to do so (unless they are authorised to do so).
  • All fire alarms are tested regularly; it is important to ensure that you are familiar with the sound of the alarm. Fire drills will also be held at regular intervals, and these must be treated as if they were actual evacuations, and the appropriate procedures followed (see below). It is important that you read the Fire Action sign displayed in your room.
  1. Action to be Taken on Discovering Fire or Smoke 
  • Upon discovering a fire, IMMEDIATELY activate the nearest fire alarm call-point, to evacuate the building.
  • DO NOT attempt to extinguish the fire, unless you have received prior training from the College, or you can do so without risk or injury to yourself or others.
  • Leave the building via the nearest escape route which will take you away from the fire, and assemble in the designated fire assembly point. Please read the Fire Action sign displayed in your room.
  • DO NOT stop to collect personal belongings, or attempt to re-enter the building, until it is confirmed by the Fire Brigade / Duty Porter, that it is safe to do so.
  • REPORT to the Duty Porter, any missing person known to have been in the building before the fire started; if possible indicate the area where they were last seen.
  • Should a fire or flood occur in the Library, the Library Disaster Plan should be put into action. Copies are kept by the Head Porter, the Bursar and the Librarian.
  1. Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans

The Senior Fire Office will support the Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans process, making adjustments to facilitate staff and students, where practicable. In addition, the College will provide and maintain critical life-safety equipment in buildings, to facilitate the safe evacuation of a physically-impaired person, in the event of an emergency. The Senior Fire Officer will also arrange training for staff, in the use of any such equipment, as required.

  1. Unknown Disabled Visitors

 Where there are people within the building who do not pass the Porters Lodge or are not controlled, such as visitor going directly to an accommodation block, then it is more difficult to gather information prior to the need to escape. Training for staff is vital in this case as they will have to provide assistance and advice to disabled users of the building as the incident develops.

For further information please refer to the separate document – Guidance on Disabled Evacuation

  1. Emergency Action Plans and Procedures

The Senior Fire Officer, in coordination with the Health and Safety Committee, will develop and implement any Emergency Action Plans and Procedures. As such, provide all relevant staff with appropriate training / drill exercises, to ensure they understand relevant procedures, and the action to take in such an event.

  1. Emergency Service Guide

An Emergency Service Guide is located in the Porters’ Lodge, and contains relevant information to assist staff and the emergency services, e.g. materials used in the building’s construction, such as fire panel instructions, security system guides, asbestos, utility services and their isolation points.

Relevant staff, will familiarise themselves with this guide, and it will be reviewed yearly by the Senior Porter and Estates Manager.

  1. Fire Drills

The Senior Fire Officer, will organise with the Senior Porter, fire drills twice per year, for each building on College grounds. In addition, the Senior Fire Officer, will supply relevant training and equipment to the Porters, and Maintenance Department, so they can undertake fire drills e.g. Fire Panel keys, Log Book, Zone Plans.

  1. Fire Alarm Checks

The Maintenance Department will undertake weekly fire alarm checks, of all College buildings, being occupied by students, visitors and staff. In addition, weekly fire alarm checks of unoccupied College buildings will be carried out where practicable. Records will be kept in the Fire Log Book of these checks and action taken where appropriate.

  1. Porters’ Action on Receipt of a Fire Alarm Activation

Porter staff will be notified of an emergency situation / fire alarm activation, through automatic electronic notification, or a direct call from a Fire Warden.  In the event of a notification, Porter staff will:

  • Check activation against 'planned' fire alarm tests or drills.
  • Collect the relevant keys, Emergency Service Guide, and open the automatic security gates, to allow access to the site, for emergency services.
  • Seek the appropriate building, and liaise with any Fire Wardens, directing the evacuees to the assembly point. Reassure them, and proceed to the fire panel showing the alarm activation.
  • After reading the fire panel, and if it is safe to do so, inspect the location of the alarm activation.
  • If a fire has been identified, call 999 and instruct the Fire and Rescue Services to the appropriate building, noting access routes, and any other useful information.
  • Continue with the evacuation, and when safely at the assembly point, take the Fire Register to establish students who may be missing or trapped.
  • Under no circumstances, is anyone allowed to re-enter the building.
  • Liaise with the Fire and Rescue Service and await instruction.
  • Silence and reset the fire alarm panel, when authorised to do so by the Fire and Rescue Service, or if a false activation has been identified.
  • Record the incident on the Fire Alarm Reporting Form, indicating any information given by the Fire and Rescue Service.
  • Distribute Fire Alarm Reporting Forms, as necessary, ensuring faults are notified to the Maintenance Department immediately.

NOTE:  All false alarms must be reported on a Fire Alarm Reporting Form.

To comply with the current College Fire Safety Policy and fire safety legislation, trained Fire Wardens should be provided in each building. The Fire Warden is selected during room allocation; these rooms have been selected through the Fire Risk Assessment, as best placed.

  1. Fire Wardens

 A Fire Warden will effectively have two roles: a day-to-day role, and one for when the fire alarm sounds.

Day-to-day role:-

  • To keep an eye on the general fire safety of the area, building, or floor the Fire Warden has been allocated.
  • Keep an eye on corridors and walkways, to ensure combustible materials are not stored there.
  • To check that extinguishers are where they should be, and no obvious misuse or defect has occurred.
  • To check that final exit doors are not obstructed.
  • Check that fire doors are not tied, propped or wedged open, where they should not be.
  • Monitor escape routes, to see they are kept free of obstructions.

This may seem like a lot of extra work, but in reality it can be done as part of your daily routine, just by being a little more observant. Any problems, or defects, need to be reported to the Senior Fire Officer or Maintenance Department - 01223 762230 or

Role when the fire alarm sounds:-

  • Put on the yellow high-visibility armband, and collect the register for their allocated area.
  • To take part in any post-alarm de-briefing, to identify any shortcomings in the evacuation procedures. Departments may want their Fire Wardens to do other things, in addition to the roles outlined above. Lecturers should act as Fire Warden for their auditorium, if an alarm occurs during a lecture.
  • To assist the Porter in-charge with crowd control, verbally encouraging people towards the assembly area.
  • Reporting to the Porter in charge of the evacuation, at the assembly area, or just outside the building, to advise their area is clear (or to report anyone who cannot or will not leave the building).
  • Checking any refuge in their area, in case someone is waiting for assistance to evacuate.
  • Checking all accessible rooms, including toilets and offices, to make sure people are beginning their evacuation.
  • Sweep through their allocated area, turning off equipment and closing doors/windows in passing, but not delaying their own escape unduly, while encouraging people to leave via the nearest fire escape route. The fire warden should normally be the last person off their floor.

 Extra responsibilities:-

 Apart from the actions listed above, a Fire Warden will not take on any additional responsibility for fire safety. That remains with the Senior Fire Officer and Head Porter.

Who is responsible for providing Fire Wardens?:-

The Senior Fire Officer is responsible for fire safety. Day-to-day activities and the practical actions of fire safety may be delegated to the Porters, Maintenance Department or other nominated person. In practice, it is likely to be the Senior Fire Officer, or similar, who makes sure there are enough fire wardens for the building. If a fire warden permanently leaves the building, a replacement should be found and trained.

Fire Wardens are selected by room allocation at the start of the Michaelmas term. When a Fire Warden room is allocated, the occupier is informed of their responsibility as a Fire Warden. Generally, this is done during the room draw process.

Fire Warden Allocation:-

Ideally, there should be sufficient wardens, to cover all areas of a building. However, the size of a building, and the complexity of its layout, plus the nature of peoples’ work, complicates this, as it often takes them out of their own building. Add to this scheduled holiday, and other absences, and it becomes apparent quite a few wardens could be needed.

As a rule of thumb, if a floor or area takes longer than three minutes to sweep, there needs to be more fire wardens.

What if there are not enough people to act as Fire Wardens?

 As an organisation, the College must do the best it can, with the resources it has. Therefore, if there are too few people to act as Fire Wardens, it is imperative that building occupants are given basic fire safety training, and know what to do when the fire alarm sounds. Failure to act correctly, when a fire alarm sounds, could have serious, possibly life-threatening consequences, if there is a real fire.

Where only a few people can act as Fire Wardens, they should ensure other occupants are aware of their own responsibilities. Effectively, everyone in the building then acts as an unofficial Fire Warden, and looks out for everyone else.

Fire notices are displayed on every corridor by a fire exit; this gives instruction to everyone entering a building, on how to act when a fire alarm sounds.

Instructions are also issued to staff and students, through the College handbooks and websites.

What happens if the fire warden is not on their floor when the alarm sounds?:-

If the Fire Warden is out of their area, when the alarm sounds, this should not affect the evacuation procedure. This is less of a problem, when all occupants know what to do, and act appropriately. The Porter in charge, when taking the register, will record the outcome of the evacuation and act accordingly, if the Fire Brigade is called, this information will be passed to the Fire Brigade’s Chief Fire Officer so he can decide what to do.

  1. Fire Incident / Fire Alarm Activation Investigations

Multiple, unexplained fire alarm activations, will be investigated by a Competent Person, with necessary remedial action taken immediately, to ensure no further false activation occurs.

The Senior Fire Officer will report all fires to the Health and Safety Committee. In addition, the Senior Fire Officer will investigate, in conjunction with the Health and Safety Committee, fire incidents and Fire Alarm Activation Report Forms (as appropriate), taking action as necessary.

  1. Fire Alarm Statistics

The Senior Fire Officer will collate, and maintain, monthly and annual, fires and Fire Alarm Activation Reports, distributing the information to relevant person(s) as appropriate.

  1. Fire Detection and Notification Systems

Maintenance Department will provide, maintain and inspect, fire detection and notification systems, within all College buildings. In addition, the Maintenance Department will ensure a Competent Person tests, inspects and maintains emergency systems, in accordance with the following requirements:-

Fire Alarm System:-

 Every 3 Months the Maintenance Department will ensure a Competent Person:

  1. Checks entries in the Fire Log Book and any action taken.
  2. Examines / tests batteries (the back-up and secondary supplies) and their connections.
  3. Checks the fire alarm’s control and indicating equipment by:
    1. Operating a detector or call point in rotation
    2. Testing the control panel’s ancillary functions
    3. Simulating fault conditions, to check fault indicators and their circuits
    4. Reporting signs of damage, immediately to the Maintenance Department
  4. Visually inspects the building, to assess if structural / occupancy changes, have affected the requirements for the location of manual call points, detectors and sounders.
  5. Checks the operation of automatic notification links, (where fitted), to the Security Base.
  6. Checks the operation of auxiliary devices, (e.g. door releases), unless otherwise agreed with the Maintenance Department.
  7. Carries out further checks / tests as specified by the installer, supplier, or manufacturer.
  8. Provides a service record to the Maintenance Department, and completed Log Book.

Annually the Maintenance Department will ensure a Competent Person:

  1. Carries out the 3 monthly checks outlined above.
  2. Checks the operation of each detector.
  3. Reports signs of damage immediately to the Maintenance Department.
  4. Provides a service record to the Maintenance Department and completed Log Book.

Emergency Lighting:-

 Every 6 Months the Maintenance Department will ensure a Competent Person:

  1. Energises each self-contained luminaire and internally illuminated sign, from its battery, for 1 hour, by simulating a normal lighting-supply failure.
  2. Visually examines the function of all luminaires and / or signs during this period.
  3. Energises each central battery system, from its battery, for 1 hour, by simulating a failure of the normal lighting supply.
  4. Visually examines the function of all luminaires and / or signs during this period.
  5. Provides a service record to the Maintenance Department on completion. Annually the Maintenance Department will ensure a Competent Person:
    1. As 6 months above, except a full 3-hour discharge will be undertaken.
    2. Provides a service record to the Maintenance Department on completion.

Lift Emergency Phones:-

Lift emergency phones are linked directly to the Porters’ Lodge, with signage displaying instructing on how to use them. The Maintenance Department will test each phone, in each building, weekly, and maintain records of such tests.

Lift Alarms:-

Lift alarms are tested weekly by the Maintenance Department during the fire alarm testing.

NOTE: Monitoring by the Estates Manager will be carried out to confirm all testing is undertaken.

  1. Remote Sites

Arrangements will be made individually, with the residences of the remote site, to ensure they know what to do in the event of an emergency.

  1. Fire-Fighting Equipment

The Maintenance Department will provide appropriate fire-fighting equipment in all College buildings.

In addition, the Maintenance Department will arrange for a Competent Person(s) to test and maintain each item of fire-fighting equipment, in accordance with the requirements of the Fire Risk Assessment, with defects in the provision of equipment, or serviceability, rectified immediately.

The Maintenance Department will also carry out quarterly checks, of all life-critical safety equipment, with any defects or anomalies acted upon immediately.

  1. Means of Escape

The Maintenance Department will ensure emergency Exit Routes and Fire Exits, meet the Fire Risk Assessment standards.  In addition, the Maintenance Department will check quarterly, the operability of all fire doors.

  1. Signage

The Maintenance Department will provide the following signs:

  • Fire  Action Notices:      The Maintenance Department will provide and display Fire Action Notices, in all bedrooms, and next to, or as near as possible to, any fire alarm call-point, in all College-owned buildings.
  • Fire Exit / Assembly Point Signs: The Maintenance Department will provide suitable and sufficient signs, replacing signs as required e.g. damage, changes in legislation.
  1. Events & Special Licenses

The Senior Fire Officer, and Events and Catering Manager, will support Colleges / Departments arranging events, to ensure their activities are compliant with capacity numbers, and licensing requirements. As part of this process, the Senior Fire Officer will identify if adjustments are required with the fire detection / notification system, arranging for adjustments to be made by a Competent Person, as necessary.

NOTE:  The Fire Safety Officer will liaise with the Fire & Rescue Service, regarding events, if required.

  2. General Waste and Risk of Arson

The risk of arson, and general building security, shall be considered when locating bins / skips, which will be positioned and secured as far away from a building as possible, with combustible materials stored in enclosed skips.  At no time will bins / skips obstruct building escape routes.

In addition, the Maintenance Department and the Housekeeping and Accommodation Department, will establish procedures to ensure:

  • Leaves and general rubbish are cleared away from buildings.
  • Bins / skips are emptied regularly.
  • Unexpected, large, waste-disposals are dealt with promptly / correctly.
  • All contractors are informed of waste-handling requirements.
  1. Smoking

All staff, students, visitors and appointed contractors, will be informed that smoking is only allowed within designated smoking areas.

  1. Contractors

Department Managers, will ensure contractors are provided with a copy of the Contractor Standards and Working Practices document. This document details the standards contractors must comply with, when working at the College, and the process they must follow if their work will affect the fire risk of a building, or if alterations / adjustments are required to the existing fire safety system. Any contractor not complying with this document, may have their contract terminated.

  1. Monitoring and Review

The Health and Safety Committee will review management arrangements, against the requirements of this document at regular intervals.