Fire safety in schools is essential as there are a lot of pupils gathered in one place, and this, combined with the fact that school science laboratories often contain highly flammable and dangerous substances mean that an uncontrolled fire could quickly spread.
What exactly is a Fire Safety Procedure?
A fire safety procedure is a written policy that clearly sets out the steps to be taken by staff in the event of a fire. It should clearly assign responsibility for each listed action. The aim is to keep everybody - children and staff - safe in a fire emergency.
Schools in the UK are legally required to comply with numerous guidelines and regulations designed to ensure the safety of all occupants of the buildings. This guide to fire safety in schools is designed to help you navigate these complex regulations and explain what should be included in an effective procedure.
Fire Risk Assessments for Educational Settings
The first priority is to thoroughly assess all school buildings and identify possible fire hazards. Look out for faulty wiring, computer rooms loaded with electronics, science laboratories, dated heating systems, any ceiling areas with exposed fibreglass insulation and any other obvious fire hazards.
All classrooms and large areas, such as assembly halls and cloakrooms where large numbers congregate should be supplied with fire extinguishers, fire safety doors and blankets. Science labs, server rooms and school kitchens are considered to be areas of high risk and should be carefully monitored and also be provided with all necessary safety equipment. You might want to consider installing suppression systems in the aforementioned areas as well as fume cupboards, and electrical enclosures which are designed to quickly extinguish fires and protect lives before they have the chance to cause a lot of costly and potentially irreparable damage. Sprinkler systems are also highly effective at suppressing fires and are particularly valuable during the long summer holidays when fires can smoulder when the buildings are left empty.
It is mandatory for schools to have regular Fire Risk Assessments the contents of which are agreed by the board of governors. All schools are required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 to have preventative measures and evacuation procedures in place. There should be at least one designated person with fire safety responsibilities, although this will depend on the size of the school.
It is the responsibility of the headteacher to ensure that all staff are fire safety trained and understand what they have to do in the event of an emergency. It is good practice to carry out regular practice evacuation drills (once a term) to test the suggested routine – and to record response times etc and conduct post drill evaluations to see if there are any areas that need to be improved. Drills can help young students and those still maturing to become accustomed to the process and recognise that they need to take fire safety seriously.
It is imperative that fire safety policies are updated regularly and tested, and remain in line with national regulations.
Fire drills; Ensure you have a routine for an effective procedure
• If a fire is suspected, the alarm must be sounded.
• The fire service must be immediately called.
• The evacuation drill must begin without delay. Pupils led by staff should file out in an orderly fashion to the agreed central assembly point where a roll call will then be taken. No one should re-enter the building until permitted by the person in charge.
The Significance of the Roll Call
This is mandatory to find out if anyone has been left inside the building. The fire safety procedure should instruct a designated person to collect attendance registers and visitor signing-in books from the central office and take them to the assembly point as soon as the alarm sounds. Class teachers are responsible for informing the person in charge of the evacuation that all pupils in their care are accounted for.
Schools cannot afford to be complacent about fire safety. A recent BBC report revealed that each week, 20 schools in the UK are damaged by fire. London Fire Brigade has stated that fires in London schools have increased by a shocking 34 percent in one year.
Follow these steps and give your staff the tools they need to carry out thorough and meaningful fire drills. It cannot be emphasised enough how vital this is to ensure the safety of pupils and staff. A fit-for-purpose fire safety procedure will enable you to keep processes running as intended and safeguard both staff and students from preventable harm. Undertaking regular fire risk assessments with assistance from experts and ensuring you have the most up to date fire prevention technology are absolutely crucial. View some of our Education Projects here.