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A new guide has been published by the government to help employers, managers and owners of animal premises minimise the risk of fire. The guide has been prepared in response to new fire safety regulations brought in last year, and is believed to be the only one to refer to animals.

“The new Fire Safety Order put the onus on businesses to carry out fire risk assessment,” said Jim Green of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service. Farming and equestrian communities were never really affected before, but now they are liable to protect anyone on their property.

“Equestrian businesses are 30 years behind everyone else in terms of understanding fire risk and their legal obligations. This new guide addresses all that a business needs to know.”

He continued: “Most people don’t have an evacuation plan. You can’t just release mares, stallions and foals together — there would be a punch-up. Moreover, a horse sees its stable as a safe haven and will stay in there even if it’s in flames.”

It only takes 4min of smoke inhalation for a horse’s wind to be irreparably damaged, he added.

Harry Paviour, fire adviser to the British Horse Society and Association of British Riding Schools, was commissioned by the government to write the guide.

He said: “Stable yards are up there with petro-chemical premises in terms of fire risk and the difference between animal premises and factories or offices is that owners will give up their soul to release the animals, even if it means going into a burning building.

“As fire officers we have to meet them halfway.”

The guide contains practical information about storage, electrics and evacuation, explains how to comply with fire safety law and helps readers to carry out a fire risk assessment.
It also contains advice on keeping yards secure from intruders.

For a free download of the guide, visit www.communities.gov.uk/publications/fire/firesafetyanimal and for advice on fire safety, email Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service at rural.safety@hantsfire.gov.uk

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (29 November, ’07)