In April a caravan was completely destroyed by fire in Porthcawl, South Wales. The fire broke out at Trecco Bay Holiday Park and, as you can see from this clip, the caravan was engulfed by flames within minutes. Other caravans close by were also damaged but thankfully nobody was injured. Caravans do have particular challenges when it comes to fire safety because of their construction.  But while they have some specific fire safety risks associated with them, so does every kind of holiday accommodation. That’s why it’s important that everyone who rents out their property for holidays makes sure they are complying with the legislation.

What is the relevant fire safety legislation for holiday accommodation owners?

The legislation for England and Wales is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (sometimes referred to as the Fire Safety Order). In the case of holiday accommodation it applies when someone is paying to stay at your property on a short term basis whether it’s a house, cottage, flat or caravan. The legislation explains what’s required of the person responsible for fire safety (usually the property owner) so they can protect people from the risk of fire at their premises. It focuses on the need to conduct a fire risk assessment of the property in a methodical, structured way to identify all the risks. The responsible person must then decide what needs to be done to minimise those risks, and to ensure those actions are completed.

Conducting a fire risk assessment in your holiday accommodation

What are the fire hazards?

What could be the potential causes of ignition in your property? Try to think as broadly as you can. Do you supply candles for use there? Do you have an open fire or wood burner that could be misused accidentally? What risks do your kitchen equipment and electrical appliances pose? Consider fuel sources as well - basically that means anything that’s combustible so the list could be quite long. Typically it could include things like bedding, curtains and furniture. Certain types of cleaning equipment could also be a flammability risk.

Who might be at risk of harm?

Obviously the short answer is everyone at your property at the time, but think through the nature of the types of guests who might be using your accommodation. It’s important you give extra consideration to people who might be particularly vulnerable if a fire broke out, like the very young, the elderly or anyone with a disability. Consider whether it might be beneficial to include something in your booking procedure that alerts you in advance so you can take specific steps beforehand if necessary.

Evaluate what you’ve found and decide what steps you must take to keep people safe from fire

Armed with that information, your focus should turn to what you can do to minimise or ideally eliminate those risks as far as possible. Things to consider include:
  • The fire detection and warning methods you have. What level of detection is appropriate for your size of property? Is there an automatic fire detection system? Are your detectors located in the most appropriate places, can the alarm be heard in every bedroom and is it loud enough? What can you do to ensure your alarm system is suitable for anyone using your property who is hearing impaired?
  • What other fire safety equipment might be needed e.g. fire blankets and fire extinguishers. Make sure they are suitable for the different kinds of fire they could be used on and that staff know how to operate them.
  • Would everyone in your property be able to get out quickly in a fire? Are escape routes clearly signed and well lit by emergency lighting, ‘borrowed’ light from outside, or other acceptable means for your property size so people can find their way out? And are exit routes free of obstructions and can external doors by easily opened from the inside by guests?
  • Do you have a clear up to date emergency evacuation plan? It must be easy to communicate and should be clearly displayed at your premises telling guests what to do in the event of a fire. It’s essential it’s suitable and easily understandable for anyone who might stay or work at your property. Make sure you factor in doing fire drills periodically too.
All equipment needs annual servicing and periodic testing/inspections as well so remember to keep a record of this.

Record findings, plan and train

If five or more people work in your holiday accommodation business, you must record all the significant fire risk assessment findings based on the above 3 steps. Even if you don’t have that many people, it’s still good practice to note down the information anyway, along with your plan for completing all required actions and any training you have done/need to do.

Review your fire risk assessment

Keep an eye on your risk assessment. Circumstances can change, risks can alter and it’s important to be mindful of adapting your assessment, and the actions needed, if that happens.

Do you need more help completing your fire risk assessment?

If there was a fire, not only does it damage your property, your business and possibly even your reputation but most critically of all it is putting people’s lives at risk. Everyone who lets their property for holiday accommodation has a duty of care to ensure their guests’ safety and fire safety is a vital part of that. If you have a small premises, you might find the guidance in the booklet “Do you have paying guests?” helpful.  If your accommodation is part of a complex or is large and/or has shared areas then other guidance and legislation might be applicable too and the fire safety arrangements will need to be more substantial. We’d advise reading “Fire Safety Risk Assessment - sleeping accommodation” as a starting point. And don’t forget that if you would prefer to talk to fire safety professionals to get more detailed advice for your specific property, please do get in contact with us.