Fire Safety in Schools

There were 686 fires in schools in England in 2016-2017 according to UK fire statistics. In 2018 London Fire Brigade reported that School fires were up 37% in the capital. 

When fire breaks out in a school, it can have a devastating impact not only staff, students and parents but the whole community. Whether vandalism or accidental, the cost of school fires  in monetary terms as well as the emotional toll and educational disruption can be catastrophic. Small fires can mostly be extinguished successfully. However, for the rare and unexpected occasion when a larger fire takes hold, schools should be confident every effort has been made and every precautionary method taken to preserve life and property.

Here we take a look at best practice with fire safety in schools and explain all about legal requirements and sensible steps to ensure all who use the building are kept safe in an emergency.

Assigning a responsible person

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order requires that all workplaces have fire precautions in place where necessary and that a 'responsible person' is instated. While in most workplaces the responsible person is the employer or anyone with control of the premises, in a school these duties may fall to the headteacher or the governing body. The responsible person must carry out fire risk assessment and ensure the necessary precautions are taken to protect the safety of 'relevant persons' (i.e all who use the school). It's the role of the responsible person to help assess all fire risk and ensure that, as far as is reasonable, the needs of all relevant persons, including those with disabilities and additional needs, are met. A huge part of the assessment is identifying fire hazards and the people potentially at risk - they might be, for example, students working in unsupervised areas or people unfamiliar with the premises.

Steps should be taken taken to minimise the risk of fire equipment being misused and/or vandalised 

Installing fire protection measures

Once the presence of risk has been concluded, it's crucial that steps are taken to reduce any remaining risk and that precautions are put in place. That means installing early warning systems such as smoke detectors and fire alarms. They allow for early warning to facilitate the fire escape plan. An evacuation plan is legally required in schools and it's the job of the responsible person to oversee it, while fire drills should be held once a term at different times of the day. For as swift and fuss-free emergency exit as possible, schools must ensure appropriate signage is visible along all corridors and at each fire exit of the route.

In 2018 London Fire Brigade reported that School fires were up 37% in the capital.

Fire extinguishers in schools

The amount and types of fire extinguishers installed where will depend on the size of the premises and the nature of the fire risk in any particular area. Most commonly fitted fire extinguishers include water (for wood, paper and solid material fires) and CO2, which tackle liquid and electrical fires.  There will be other types of fire extinguishers such as wet chemical fire extinguishers for kitchens with deep fat fryers. You may even require alcohol resistant foam fire extinguishers in prep rooms. Fire blankets will also be required in most kitchen areas and also science classrooms where the risk of clothing fires are higher. Should an emergency occur, staff should be aware of the nearest extinguisher's location and be trained to use it.

Reduce the risk of vandalism

Steps should be taken taken to minimise the risk of fire equipment being misused and/or vandalised. Precautions to be considered are fire extinguisher cabinets in corridors along with fire extinguisher covers on all equipment in classrooms. Depending on the size of the school and amount of extinguishers installed consideration should be given to spare fire extinguishers which can be used to swap with anything unfit for service. This ensures that the level of fire protection is not reduced. 

Security

Its advised that all Schools ensure that the service provider is only sending people to site who have had a DBS check carried out. 

Conclusion

It's vital that every reasonable step is taken to protect students, staff and property against the risk of fire in schools. A thorough fire risk assessment is the best place to start and the ongoing maintenance of all fire protection equipment is crucial for peace of mind that in the event of an emergency the equipment will work as it should. Working with a trusted service provider is also vital to ensuring that the School is best placed in the event a fire occurs. 

If you need any advice or would like to speak to someone regarding your Schools fire safety contact us here