How many fire wardens do you need?

27th November, 2016

Fire wardens play an essential role in any business because they help ensure you are prepared for an emergency.
Asking individuals to be fire wardens is a great way of delegating responsibilities to key colleagues while also making them feel valued and important members of the team. A fire warden is a really important and potentially life-saving role.
The Fire Safety Order (2005) makes several references to training and information for staff, but doesn’t specifically mention the role of fire wardens or fire marshals. 
However, the DCLG guides which are written to give further advice to those carrying out fire risk assessments does provide the following information:
Staff expected to undertake the role of fire marshals (often called fire wardens) would require more comprehensive training. But their role may include:
  • helping those on the premises to leave
  • checking the premises to ensure everyone has left
  • using firefighting equipment if safe to do so
  • liaising with the fire and rescue service on arrival
  • shutting down vital or dangerous equipment
  • performing a supervisory/managing role in any fire situation.
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But there are no guidelines or advice about how many wardens you should employ.
Quite often, businesses will send an individual on a fire warden course in the local hotel and feel they have ticked a box and got things covered. But being the only fire warden, even for a small business, would be a big responsibility. 
Every site, business or property is different. I use my 3P’s to help me decide whether its ‘people, property or practices’ on the site I need to prioritise.
1. People
For example, if your site is a medium size office covering a few floors and where everyone is an employee familiar with the building layout, you carry out your fire alarm tests weekly and evacuation drills every six months. The fire warden’s job would simply entail checking everyone is safely out of the building in the event of a fire.
But if you compared this with a large department store, for example, where your colleagues are outnumbered 30/1 by members of the public who may be slow to respond to an alarm, feel upset and displaced. You would obviously need many more fire wardens to help everyone get out safely.
2. Property
Different kinds of properties need varying degrees of cover from your wardens. For example, a large open plan office could easily be searched by one or two wardens because they can cover a greater area more quickly. But a similar sized office littered with corridors and laid out over many floors, would obviously take much more work by additional wardens. 
3. Process
The processes, or what your businesses actually produces and how, has a massive impact on the risk of fire. If you have a manufacturing process or maintenance workshops, the duties of a fire warden may include additional roles to help stop a fire spreading by switching off electrical or gas supplies or turning off machinery. This again further reduces their effectiveness in evacuating large areas.
Once you have figured out your 3 P's the next step is to ensure you know your evacuation routes well. You need to take into account who works in the areas (including those with disabilities), what the likely response to an alarm would be, whether any machinery needs shutting down and whether there’s any dangerous electricity and gas supplies nearby you need to be extra cautious of.
If you are still unsure about how many fire wardens you may need to keep your colleagues and members of the public safe, contact Matt at Synergy Fire Engineering on (0)843 658 1310 or email 


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