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Fire Brigade Strike Action

UCL Information & Guidance

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have announced that they have a mandate to call a national strike(s) in relation to a dispute over fire fighters' pensions and have given notice that they will be holding industrial strike action on the following dates:

  • 7am Wednesday 25 February 2015 until 7am Thursday 26 February 2015


UCL is asking all staff and students to read carefully the following information. Everyone has a duty to participate in fire safety at UCL, particularly at the time of a strike by Fire Brigade personnel.  You can assist greatly in preventing fires and alarms. We would not anticipate strike action to occur over a prolonged period (it is anticipated that any strike will last between 4 to 13 hours), and it is therefore reasonable to delay any non-essential activities that may increase fire risk until full fire service coverage is recommenced following a strike.

All Staff & Students

We are asking staff and students to take even more care and to think about their safety from fire in all of their activities.

  • You should postpone, where possible, all hazardous activities for the duration of any strike. These may involve workshop or laboratory activities.

  • You should not work out-of-hours unless you have obtained, in advance, written permission from the Head of Department or Departmental Safety Officer.

  • Please consider the fire hazards within your areas and do all you can to minimize risk. You should switch off computer screens, lights and any other electronic items when not in actual use, and take extra care if using cooking appliances.

  • Ensure that all fire doors are kept shut.  This is a legal requirement anyway, but is crucial during the period of a strike.

  • Ensure that all escape routes are unobstructed at all times and that accumulation of waste materials is avoided.

  • Call 999 immediately if a fire does occur and report this to the nearest Fire Evacuation Marshal (FEM) once you have left the building.

  • You must immediately evacuate any area in which an alarm sounds.  Never enter a building in which the alarm is sounding, and, if the alarm has sounded, await direction from an FEM to re-enter the building.

  • Non-fire emergencies, such as becoming trapped in a lift, should be referred to UCL Security Control Room on 020 7679 3333 (Ext 33333). Lift Maintenance Contractor or other Competent Persons will be available for rescues during strike periods.

  • UCL Communications facilities will be used to inform staff of published strike dates and times, when known;

  • UCL Security Control Room and Security Staff will be available for advice and assistance during these strike periods.

Head of Departments and Departmental Safety Officers (DSOs) during Strike Periods

You have a responsibility to ensure the following:

  • Hazardous processes, experiments and works are postponed for the duration of the strike wherever possible.

  • Consider closing facilities to staff and students during strike periods (particularly out of hours) when there will be fewer people around to identify or report any fires than a normal working day, as maximum FEM coverage will be essential.

  • Out-of-hours working should be postponed, unless you have ensured that a suitable risk assessment and control measures are in place to ensure the safety of all persons, and you have provided written permission for out-of-hours activities to take place.

  • Appropriate numbers of FEMs are in place at all times, and they are aware of the additional duties placed on them for the duration of the strike.

  • If any contractors are present in your buildings, they should not be carrying out any dust-producing works or hot works (UCL Estates staff will also have responsibilities in this respect).

  • Consider the management, use, handling and storage of flammable gases and materials as well as deliveries of flammable substances during the strike periods.

If your fire alarm operates during any period of industrial action, please react as follows:

  • Depending on your location, all fire alarm activations will need to be investigated to establish as far as reasonably practicable that the alarm activation is unwanted or if there is a genuine fire or incident. DSO / Senior Fire Evacuation Marshal (SFEM) or other Responsible Manager should review their arrangements for calling the emergency services in the event of fire.

  • If the fire alarm sounds, immediately put into action your normal evacuation routine.

  • Depending on your location, if you are certain that there is no fire and no suspicion of a fire, then the building should be reoccupied. Under these circumstances, do not call the fire brigade

  • Depending on your location, in particular, they need to ensure there is a member of Security / Duty Electrician on standby to investigate in the event of an alarm via automatic fire detection and they ensure that, in the event of fire, a telephone call using Ext: 222(2) or 999 is made at the earliest opportunity.

UCL Arrangements

Local arrangements will vary depending on locations and Institutes; primarily, all fire alarm activations will need to be investigated by Departments, Institutes and Schools to establish, as far as is reasonably practicable, that the alarm activation is a false alarm or if there is a genuine fire or incident.

Core Campus

UCL Estates will have response teams in place to investigate any fire alarms, within the core campus area, only during strike periods.

UCL Estates will ensure that contractors or other competent persons able to provide a rapid response to resolve any persons trapped in UCL lifts are in place to respond quickly.  Where these arrangements are not in place, consideration should be given to isolating, closing or restricting lift use during the strike periods.


Many of UCL's off-campus locations, including managed tenancies, hospitals and the larger Institutes and schools, already have a 'staff alarm' with seek and search arrangements (where, on activation of the alarm, staff are notified, the building fire alarm does not sound and specific staff are given time for alarm investigation), without placing themselves at risk.

Where premises fire alarms are connected to Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) and not connected to the UCL Security Control Room, confirmation of a real fire prior to calling the fire brigade will normally be required.

Where available, ensure that there is at least a member of the Security / Maintenance / Porter Team (or other competent persons) on stand-by to investigate quickly in the event of an alarm and reset the system where appropriate.

Fire Evacuation Marshal (FEM) Information & Instructions

Safety Precautions when Investigating the Fire Alarm Activation

Depending on your location, for those staff (in a few locations) asked to investigate a fire incident to confirm if a real fire or an unwanted alarm, the following points should be considered:

  • If reported or obvious that there is a real fire - do not place yourself at risk dial Ext: 222(2) or 999 to call the fire brigade.

  • Interrogate the fire alarm Zone and Address to locate floor / area / room etc. where the detector has activated.

  • Investigate the address and if you see flames or smoke, or if you smell smoke in the area, then assume that there is a fire - do not place yourself at risk - dial Ext: 222(2) or 999 to call the fire brigade.

  • Any door that you need to go through to investigate a fire incident that does not have a Vision Panel to look through to the other side - use the back of your hand to feel the door and the handle to see if hot.  If hot, do not go further - do not place yourself at risk - dial Ext: 222(2) or 999 to call the fire brigade.

  • When the activated detector is found and there is no obvious fire, resolve any obvious cause of the activation and reset the fire alarm panel and allow any staff back into the premises.

FEM General Duties during a Fire Strike

Periodically (ideally every hour) walk around all of your areas and check the following:

  • All fire doors are kept shut. There should be no fire doors wedged open at any time.  If any staff or students do not comply with your instructions, please contact your Manager or Departmental Safety Officer.

  • Any combustible materials, such as cardboard, paper, furniture, etc., should not be located in close proximity to ignition sources, such as electrical sockets, light fittings, heaters, etc.

  • All escape routes should be kept completely clear of storage or materials at all times.  All exit doors must be unobstructed at all times.

  • All fire detectors, manual call points and fire extinguishing devices must be unobstructed at all times.

FEM Emergency Duties during a Fire Strike

If the fire alarm sounds:

  • Carry out your usual duties as quickly as possible i.e. ensure all persons evacuate immediately using their nearest exit and proceed directly to the Assembly Point.

  • If there are any signs of fire, (i.e. visible flames or smoke, smell of smoke, or someone has reported that there is a fire) do not investigate and immediately dial Ext: 222 or 999 to call the fire brigade.

If there are no obvious signs of fire, the following should be carried out:

  • Depending on your location, following evacuation of the building, the Senior SFEM / FEM, should read the location of the alarm activation from the fire alarm panel, and announce this to all FEMs. If multiple zones or locations are shown as being in ‘FIRE’, await attendance of Estates Team on the Main Campus or, elsewhere, your local facilities team or Senior FEM.

  • Before entering any area, check that there is no fire within.  You can do this by looking through vision panels in doors (where fitted), or by gently touching the door with the back of your hand, starting at the bottom of the door and working your way up.  If the door is hot, there is discolouration of paintwork surrounding the door, or there are any visible signs of smoke then exit the building immediately and call the fire brigade.

  • Depending on your location, if you investigate the location of the activation and are sure that there is no fire, and that it is in fact a false alarm, report to the SFEM and the member of Estates who will be in attendance and the alarm can be reset.

  • Depending on your location, following a couple of minutes of the alarm being cleared, persons can be allowed to re-enter the building.

Student Halls of Residence

Student Halls will need to instigate a 'first response / investigation team' composed of suitable staff / Wardens during strike periods to attend fire alarm activations and take a decision on whether the fire brigade is needed.

Depending on the location and time of day, an incident will be dealt with by the Local Resident Manager or a minimum of two wardens (out of normal working hours there should be at least two wardens on duty at each building at all times).

All students - care should be taken particularly when cooking, fire doors must be kept shut, and if cooking is burnt, smoke should be cleared by opening windows and not fire doors.

UCL Estates Staff Information & Instructions

Project Officers and Contractors

Contractors should delay certain activities presenting a high risk of ignition e.g. those activities involving 'hot work’, especially any construction work involving blow torches, welding equipment and the like, and any works likely to cause a false alarm, or works that may produce dust, until the strike is finished.

UCL Security Control Room

  • Generally, fire brigade will, when mobilised, send an initial attendance to incidents of one fire engine responding to a 999 call where there is a real fire, smoke, or where there are persons trapped or injured.

  • On receipt of a fire alarm during the strike period, Duty Security & Electricians should be dispatched to the building to investigate alarm signal, and report back.

  • If real fire reported or confirmed, call 999 and request the fire brigade.

  • Student Halls of Residence - on receipt of fire alarm activation at a Residence, contact the Duty Manager or Duty Warden immediately on their respective mobile numbers.

  • If real fire, Duty Manager or Duty Warden are instructed to dial '999' and report fire immediately from their mobiles, without calling Control Room first, to save time.

  • Await confirmation of real fire or unwanted alarm with details from the Duty Manager / Warden.

Further Information & Links


Report a Fire Incident

Fire Risk Assessments & Emergency Plans

Fire Safety Technical Notes & Mandatory Instructions

Safety Services

Fire Safety Advice

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