Fire is a real risk to the safety of people attending any celebratory events, for example weddings, engagements and birthday parties. Recent incidents involving fire at celebratory events have resulted in the tragic loss of many lives.
The Responsible Person(s) for any premises or venue hosting such an event must recognise the statutory fire safety responsibilities, and undertake a comprehensive fire risk assessment to establish effective control measures to reduce or remove any fire risks when celebrations or events are planned.
You must ensure that any relevant persons (a ‘relevant person’ is anyone lawfully on the premises, or any person in the vicinity, who may be affected by fire on or from the premises). This will include any employees, contractors, volunteers, members of public attending the event or any other person who has a legal right to be there.
As the Responsible Person, you are now required to carry out a fire risk assessment and record any findings, in line with Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022.
The size, complexity and variety of the event will determine whether the fire risk assessment can be completed by a member of the event team. It may be more appropriate to employ a registered qualified fire risk assessor to complete the fire risk assessment. For a list of registered fire risk assessors, click here.
Fire safety precautions
During the completion of your fire risk assessment, you will need to:
- Adequately assess the risk of fire;
- Take steps to prevent fires from starting or limit the spread of fire; and
- Provide adequate systems of fire warnings and means of escape.
If tents or marquees are part of the event, make sure fire exits are kept clear and all exit signs give clear instructions. People will not be familiar with the layout and may have impaired judgement.
The fire risk assessment also needs to include:
- Things that could start a fire – electrics, pyrotechnics, and live fire effects.
- Things that could act as fuel for a fire – curtains, scenery decorations and gas supplies. Flammable foliage and any pyrotechnics inside the premises should be avoided and may impact on the fire safety precautions that you provide. Artificial foliage is now a popular and fashionable method for decorating the interiors of many premises. When ignited, this material will rapidly cause the development and spread of fire. This may stop people from making a safe escape.
- Who might be harmed by a fire – and those especially at risk, such as those who may require additional assistance to evacuate safely.
- Ensuring that fire exits are suitable and sufficient for the maximum numbers of people expected at the event.
You can help prevent or limit the spread of fire by:
- Using flame retardant coatings and treatments on decorations and curtains.
- Separating potential sources of ignition from fuel sources, such as candles and decorations, discarded cigarettes near flammable/combustible items etc.
- Good housekeeping – store rubbish correctly in bins, don’t over-fill.
- Controlling and monitoring any flammable liquids, gas and LPG containers on site, and making sure the emergency services know where they are stored.
- Cutting back vegetation to ensure escape routes are clear.
- Providing firefighting equipment (and training as appropriate).
- Not using sky lanterns – while these have long been popular for celebrations and memorials, the Fire and Rescue Service actively discourages their use due to them being both a fire hazard and a danger to wildlife, pets and people.
You will need an emergency plan that includes your emergency procedures, and provision for the safe evacuation of disabled people.
All employees should be trained and be able to assist with the safe evacuation of the event if required.
The key piece of fire safety legislation that applies to events is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Fire safety risk assessment guidance documents are available to download for free from Gov.uk. The following are relevant for organising the safety of public events:
- Open air events and venues
- Small and medium places of assembly
- Large places of assembly
- The Purple Guide to health, safety and welfare at music and other events
You should also consider consulting with the relevant local authority for any requirements that they may have.