Fire safety for farmers and rural businesses

Advice for farmers and businesses working in Suffolk's countryside on prevention, reducing arson and Avian flu.

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The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 is the fire safety legislation that applies to all farm buildings where people work, including packing sheds, milking parlours, barns, holiday lets and farmhouses used for providing bed and breakfast.

If you are a business owner, you are required to carry out a risk assessment. If you employ 5 or more people you are required by law to record the significant findings.

There are five steps to completing a fire safety risk assessment:

  1. identify any hazards (e.g. sources of ignition, sources of fuel, Dangerous substances)
  2. identify any people at risk
  3. evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from risk
  4. record, plan, inform, instruct and train
  5. review

Farms can be vulnerable to arson due to their remote location, open boundaries and readily ignitable sources, such as hay and Straw. Though it is not always possible to stop fires occurring, the risk can be reduced by practising good housekeeping and close management of security and practices around the farm.

Did you know that every year in the UK 1,700 farm buildings and 66,000 acres of grassland are destroyed by fire. Half of these fires are started deliberately.

Planning is key. Prepare a fire routine and action plan to ensure all farm workers know what to do in the event of a fire.

  • Consider a ‘FIRE BOX’ at the property entrance, containing details to help firefighters (e.g. location of water supplies, map of land, list of livestock, types and location of hazardous materials).
  • Have identified areas to relocate livestock in your emergency plan.
  • Keep entrances and exit routes clear and ensure sufficient space for fire appliances to access, if required.
  • Be vigilant to any unexpected visitors, record vehicle details including registration and description (e.g. car, van, etc & colour).
  • Get to know your neighbours, WhatsApp groups can be a quick way in getting messages out to neighbours.
  • Consider discreet installation of wildlife cameras to cover vulnerable access points.
  • Keep a record of what3words, regarding location of access points and vulnerable buildings/stacks, as all blue light responders (Police, Fire & Ambulance) are familiar and may save tie when needed.

For help on plans contact

What to do should a fire break out on your farm?

  • Call 999 without delay.
  • Give the full postal address including postcode and best entrance to the farm.
  • Consider and tell us what chemicals are involved.
  • Send someone to the farm entrance to direct the fire service, ideally in a High Visibility clothing.
  • Be prepared to be questioned by the fire service as to what is on fire. • Prepare to evacuate livestock should the fire spread.
  • Prepare to use farm machinery to assist the fire service.

If the fire service attend a fire on your farm - they will want to know about

  • Water supplies (lakes, reservoirs, onsite water bowsers, etc.)
  • Location of bottled gas, especially acetylene, bulk diesel or petrol.
  • Buildings constructed using asbestos.
  • Location of any stored ammonium Nitrate fertilizers, Sodium chlorates, pesticides or any other agrochemicals and poisons.
  • Slurry pits and any other animal waste.
  • Guns and munitions.
  • Machinery should be locked and secure when unattended.
  • Petrol, diesel and other fuels should be stored in secure areas, storage tank outlets should be padlocked.
  • Provide, repair or replace damaged fencing or gates.
  • Install intruder sensors and security lighting.
  • Maintain security of outbuildings.
  • Refuse should be disposed of safely and on a regular basis.
  • Consider CCTV (To support a prosecution this needs to be 4 megapixels and have a resolution of min. 1080p res)
  • Report anti-social behaviour confidentially to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
  • Consider joining your local FarmWatch scheme (Suffolk Police).

When planning your storage of hay & straw, consider the following:

  • hay and straw should be removed from fields as soon as possible after harvesting.
  • store away from other buildings, particularly those housing fuel, agrochemicals and machinery.
  • in stacks of reasonable size, space at least 10 metres apart
  • keep away from livestock housing.
  • Fertilizers should be kept in single storey, dedicated, well ventilated buildings, constructed from materials that will not burn, such as concrete, bricks or steel.
  • Clean any storage area before it is used form Ammonium Nitrate.
  • Fertilizers and pesticides, where possible, should be kept under lock and key.
  • Keep ammonium Nitrate, if stored outside, away from combustible materials and sources of contamination.
  • Where possible, keep away from public view.
  • Ensure regular inspection and maintenance of electrical equipment and fittings, such as lighting.
  • Carry out regular stock checks and report any loss immediately to the Police (Call 101).
  • Damage from animals can be limited by implementing a pest control system.

Small fires can rapidly develop into wildfires devastating the countryside and property, particularly during dry hot weather.

If you own or manage an area with public access, there are some steps you can take to help prevent deliberate fires from affecting you:

  • Have a land management plan – felled trees can be seen as ‘fuel’ by arsonists. Logs could provide you with extra income.
  • Ensure you have clear public safety notices (e.g. don’t leave litter, no BBQs).
  • Have a hot weather plan (restrictions, extra patrols, firebreaks).
  • Have a waste management plan and appropriately sited metal bins.
  • Clearly define if and where camping is permitted.
  • If fires/BBQs are permitted provide hard standing (paving slab/sand) Security.
  • Secure your boundaries and block gaps in walls, hedges or fences.
  • Clear walkways of overgrowth to prevent build-up of debris and improve visibility.
  • Report and remove fly-tipping immediately.
  • Report suspicious behaviour to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has a Business Continuity plan for Avian Flu.

Should a case of Avian Flu be declared in Suffolk, SFRS will treat all agricultural premises as potentially being effected, to discharge its duty of care, to avoid further spread of the disease.

Should you require the fire service during this time, we may:

  • On arrival only the Officer in Charge (OIC) will enter the site and Risk Assess the needs and resources required, prior to committing firefighters.
  • Establish a rendezvous point outside the site, for further resources.
  • Only deploy essential personnel and vehicles/equipment to pass onto the site.
  • only use one Access/Egress point to control disinfections of personnel, equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

You can assist with areas clearly designated for disinfection control.

Contact us

How to contact Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service with any questions about rural fire safety.