It is essential that all organisations take their fire safety obligations seriously, but this is particularly true for schools and educational establishments, for whom effective fire risk assessments, fire prevention and fire safety are imperative given the vulnerability of children and teenagers. The large numbers of pupils and staff that are likely to be congregated in a relatively small area at the time of any incident also heightens the risk of loss of life and means that fire safety considerations and evacuation planning are key to any school’s health and safety strategy.
Earlier this month, leading insurance firm Zurich wrote to the government calling for urgent action to improve fire protection in schools. 1,000 site inspections conducted over the last 2 years found that 67% of English schools were rated as having “poor” fire protection systems, while only 5% were awarded an ‘excellent’ rating. This compared unfavourably to Scottish schools, where 29% were rated as having ‘excellent’ fire protection systems in place.
Zurich’s report found that there are more than 1,000 fires in school premises every year, not only putting pupil’s lives at risk, but also costing on average £2.8m for larger incidents. These incidents have resulted in closed premises for both pupils and also the wider community, which often uses the space out of school hours.
Responding to Zurich’s statement, the Department of Education said:
“Schools are fundamentally safe places, designed to be evacuated as quickly as possible in the event of a fire.
All schools are required to have an up-to-date fire risk assessment and to conduct regular fire drills – and all new school buildings must be signed off by an inspector to certify that they meet the requirements of building regulations.”
According to the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s ‘Fire Safety in New and Existing School Buildings’ guidance document, schools and educational establishments are obliged to meet the following standards:
- Ensure procedures are in place to reduce the likelihood of fire;
- Maintain fire detection and alarm systems;
- Ensure staff and pupils are familiar with emergency evacuation procedures;
- Keep fire risk assessments are kept up to date;
- Ensure fire precautions remain current and adequate (they should be reviewed in detail; when significant alterations are made to a school’s premises).
To assist schools in meeting these standards, a Fire Safety Risk Assessment Guide has been published, specifically for use in educational premises including schools and after-school clubs, universities, academies, creches, adult education centres, outdoor education centres and music schools.
This guide stresses that only competent and informed individuals should complete a fire risk assessment. Competency is judged by sufficient training skills and knowledge, and the more complicated a building or the activities undertaken, the more competency is required. However, it’s wise to consider whether you’d be comfortable with leaving the safety of your staff and pupils in the hands of an individual who is not trained in fire safety.
Would you be willing to take this risk with their lives?
With so many elements to consider, it really does make sense to employ a professional to conduct fire risk assessments in your school or college.
Read more about Zurich Municipal’s findings on fire protection in schools here, or for more information on how FireCare can provide advice and recommendations for your school or college, give us a call on 023 8026 9833.
At FireCare Security & Electrical we carry out full fire risk assessments for our clients all over the South Coast and London. We’re based in Eastleigh, perfectly placed close to the M3 to provide a professional, proactive service for our clients throughout Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, London, Middlesex, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Wiltshire.