Retailers are risking the safety of customers - as well as incurring fines of up to £2,000 per incident and two years' imprisonment - by failing to ensure fire doors are unlocked during times of occupancy.
Penalties can reach nearly £100,000 in some instances for multiple offences identified in a single fire safety inspection.
Now a new smartphone app, Lodgic, is said to enable facility managers to check that fire doors are attended and unlocked when the building is scheduled for access by the public and other visitors, and then secured again at the correct time for out-of-hours site security.
The Lodgic app can be downloaded by a security guard or store manager for example: it features a 'tour' program with a pre-set activity log; a message and alarm prompts the user to go to and then secure or unlock each fire door on site at a pre-set time, which can be changed according to varying opening hours.
The staff member attends to each door and uses the smartphone and the Lodgic app to scan a printed QR bar code, using the camera function, which is attached to a plaque near the exit point and uniquely identifies each door.
At the Lodgic control centre at Redditch, the software system remotely monitors the activity that is logged on the app. There is an automatic alert if each scheduled activity is not completed within pre-set time parameters. A series of warning prompts are sent to the user on site; if the task is not completed then the centre manager is alerted and will phone the designated member of staff immediately. If there is no response, the pre-agreed escalation of an incident can include contacting senior staff, on or off site.
The scanning of each bar code is time stamped, with the physical location recorded from the smartphone's geo-positioning system – so that there is a record for the company and the fire inspection authority that activity was completed on time for each door on a tour.
"Many sites fail to manage multiple fire doors consistently across several sites; locking times vary and you're reliant on a staff member to remember. The app gives the site manager - and senior management - the reassurance that all fire doors are under control at every site, at all times," says Simon Chapman, of Lodge Service, who operate the Lodgic app and control centre service.
The app can also be used to monitor designated fire wardens: the Lodgic control centre can locate the smartphone's position to ensure that a warden is present on site. In addition, a QR bar code can be located at the main exit points, so wardens can log in and out of the building, with the information viewable at the intelligence centre.
Other services available include patrol and response and 'ad hoc' guarding, with the intelligence centre despatching teams to repair damage or secure a site when required.