Fire is a worrying risk to staff, students and visitors in schools across the United Kingdom. Not only does fire threaten human life but it is also a high-cost risk to school property and business prosperity. A small fire can spread in less than thirty seconds and in complex and closely connected premises such as schools, all responsible persons and those present should be confident in their fire safety strategy.
Fire management arrangements for complex sites such as educational premises (new and old) require strategic planning and financial commitments to be made at the highest level to ensure schools are prepared.
What are the fire safety expectations for an educational facility?
All schools are required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 to have evacuation procedures and preventative measures in place. They must also provide everyone with information, instruction, and training relating to fire safety.
Every part of a school building and of the land provided for a school shall be such that the safe escape of the occupants in case of fire is reasonably assured. This will require planning and assessment around the likely rate at which flames would spread across exposed surfaces; resistance to fire of the structures and of the materials of which the structures are made and their other properties; and the means of escape in case of fire.
Schools are complex sites that are host to a wide range of people that differ in age, requirements and ability. Therefore, educational premises are expected to have fire safety measures in place that safeguard the safety of all occupants.
Why prepare for a fire safety inspection?
Your school or educational facility can receive an inspection from several inspectorate bodies. Local fire safety authorities can visit schools and carry out fire safety inspections, issuing fire safety notices if there are issues. If their findings deem a school inadequately assessed and prepared, schools can face heavy fines.
A Grammar School was fined £10,000 for failing to make suitable and sufficient fire risk assessments. An Independent School was fined £24,000 when the school was found to have 15 fire safety breaches.
These breaches come from failure to meet any fire safety standards outlined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 e.g. faulty/missing fire doors and faulty fire alarm systems.
However, health and safety standards are considered a substantial part of an Ofsted inspection grade. Ofsted might not be a security or health & safety regulatory authority but their role of safeguarding children and learners in schools and the education sector means that many Ofsted inspectors look for fire risk assessments and a clear emergency evacuation procedure. After all, the behaviour, welfare and safety of pupils contribute to a significant part of the inspection grade.
Many Outstanding and Good Ofsted reports make reference to the presence of risk assessments and comment on student’s ability and awareness for fire safety procedures.
Schools are complex sites with lots of areas and aspects to assess. Dorset Fire Protection can carry out a comprehensive fire risk assessment and provide documentation. We can also provide advice on various aspects of a school’s fire safety management, including fire prevention, ongoing maintenance procedures, and evacuation procedures.
Why are school fire drills necessary?
It’s crucial for schools to establish a clear and simple to understand evacuation plan that explains exactly what everyone should do in the event of a fire. Fire safety training for teachers and students will help them evacuate quickly, calmly and confidently.
Students, especially at primary school age, may be alarmed by the loud wail of a fire alarm. By performing regular drills, students can grow accustomed to the noise level and react rather than lose time being confused and scared.
Fire drills develop the speed and efficiency with which staff and students react to an intense situation but by operating drills (that exclude the realthreat of fire) responsible persons can identify any issues in the fire evacuation plan such as unclear signage or unsuitable exits.
Fire drills are only effective if they are well planned and done frequently. Due to the fire hazards in schools and a few other factors, the National Union of Teachers recommends that fire drills should be carried out in schools at least once a term. For the benefit of new students and staff, school drills should be done at the beginning of each school year.
Of all the people who may be especially at risk, you will need to pay particular attention to pupils, students and staff who have special needs, including those with a disability. The Equality Act includes the concept of ‘reasonable adjustments’ and this can be carried over into fire safety law. School sites should expect to have students or staff with disabilities.
Be prepared for a fire safety inspection
Good management of fire safety in your premises is essential to ensure that any fire safety matters that arise are always effectively addressed. If your school has good fire safety procedures and competent risk management in place then inspections won’t be a problem.
Schools should always practise good housekeeping to lower the chances of a fire starting and utilise good storage to keep areas clean and clear. Faulty electric equipment and all-electric devices on-site (of which schools have a lot) should be subjected to periodic PAT testing.
Does your school fire safety stand up to inspection standards? Contact Dorset Fire Protection today to discover more about our services or book your assessment on 0330 7000 555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org