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Top Ten Fire Safety Action Points for Schools

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Schools and educational premises have unique fire risks and an enormous responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone on site.

We’ve created this guide of the ‘Top Ten Fire Safety Action Points for Schools’ to help you stay safe and avoid legal issues. If you’re in charge of fire safety at your school, this checklist gives you easy-to-follow steps. Our guide focuses on keeping students and staff safe in schools. It’s about more than just following rules; it’s about keeping everyone safe. As the ‘Responsible Person,’ it’s important to do more than just meet legal requirements – it’s about keeping yourself safe too.

Table of Contents

Who is Responsible?

WHO IS YOUR RESPONSIBLE PERSON ONSITE? IS IT YOU? MAKE SURE THEY ARE AWARE OF THEIR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Fire safety legislation (the Regulatory Reform Order (RRO), 2005) states that one person must be responsible for fire safety on site. This person may have subordinate persons with clearly delegated responsibilities, but they remain responsible for the overall control of fire safety on site.

It’s essential to have a designated Fire Safety Manager to ensure accountability and consistency of approach. This person will usually be a senior staff member, such as the Head Teacher or the Deputy Head Teacher. On larger facilities, a dedicated person (e.g., an H&S Manager) may be appointed to this role.

SOME NOTES CONCERNING RESPONSIBILITIES AT SCHOOLS

  • Local Authorities are ultimately responsible for the schools they operate. Duties regarding the day-to-day management of fire safety will usually be delegated to the senior staff and governing body, whilst the LA controls structural issues and monitors your fire safety strategy.
  • In independent schools, the responsibility for fire safety generally rests with the proprietor.

Fire Risk Assessment

THIS DOCUMENT IS CRITICAL TO COMPLYING WITH THE LAW

Every organization must have an up-to-date fire risk assessment (FRA) covering all facets of fire safety onsite. It is an important document that your insurers, a fire officer, or a court of law could ask to see at any point. You can carry out your own FRA if you are sufficiently ‘competent’. Alternatively, you may prefer to contract a specialist Fire Risk Assessor who can conduct the FRA on your behalf.

The 5-Step Procedure for Conducting an FRA:

  1. Identify fire hazards.
  2. Identify people at risk.
  3. Evaluate the risk and remove, reduce, and protect against these risks where required.
  4. Record your findings, create your emergency plan, and instruct and train your staff.
  5. Keep your fire risk assessment under review at least annually or after any significant changes.

“A competent person is someone with enough training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to be able to complete their duties properly.”

Fire Drills & Training

THE EVACUATION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR FIRE PLAN. DO YOUR STAFF HAVE THE TRAINING TO RESPOND CORRECTLY IN A FIRE?

At any premises, particularly schools, the safe and swift evacuation of the building in the event of a fire alarm activation is essential. It would be best to have a detailed ‘Fire Evacuation Plan’ that all your team members know and understand their responsibilities in an emergency.

  • All personnel or staff who may encounter a fire must be adequately trained to use portable fire extinguishers properly.
  • More importantly, the appointed staff members who will act as fire marshals in an evacuation must have suitable training in this extremely important role.

“When a fire happens, time is crucial. Your team needs to react instinctively. Practice with regular fire drills to build that instinct. Keep track of all drills and suggestions in your fire log book.”

Fire Evacuations & Safeguarding

CHILD PROTECTION AND SAFEGUARDING DURING FIRE EVACUATIONS

  • Do you have a proper evacuation strategy and trained fire marshals onsite?
  • Have you considered safeguarding as part of your evacuation strategy?

The new child safeguarding policies (Keeping Children Safe in Education, 2016) affect almost every aspect of caring for the pupils onsite. You must work with your safeguarding officer to ensure that your evacuation plan considers these unique circumstances and that your strategy does not have any loopholes.

Consider the following points which are easy to overlook:

  • Have you considered that a staff member may be required to enter the toilets to ensure all pupils have evacuated during a fire alarm? Ensure that a suitable procedure is built into your fire evacuation and safeguarding policies to protect your staff and students!
  • How will the safety and security of pupils be ensured when they are gathered at assembly points?

Help for People with Special Needs

ARE THERE PEOPLE ONSITE THAT MAY NEED HELP IN AN EVACUATION?

The Equality Act (2010) states that if disabled people could realistically expect to use your premises, you must anticipate any reasonable adjustments that would make it easier to exercise that right. This extends to your Fire Safety Policy.

If disabled people are going to be on your premises, you must also provide a safe means for them to leave if there is a fire. As disabled persons may not react (or be able to respond) or can react differently to a fire warning or a fire, you may need to create a PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan) for them to ensure that they are given the support they need in the event of a fire.

Consider these points when working on your strategy:

  • If members of the public use the building, it is advisable to create a number of standard PEEPs that can be provided upon request to disabled people or people with special needs.
  • Consider using voice alarms to give spoken alerts in the event of an emergency or using texture and colour to help identify escape routes.

Fire Doors & Containment

FIRE DOORS ARE PROBABLY THE MOST COMMON, YET ONE OF THE MOST CRITICAL BREACHES OF FIRE SAFETY STANDARDS AT SCHOOLS.

Fire doors are designed to save lives by stopping the spread of fire and smoke, allowing your staff and students time to escape. However, missing smoke seals, blocked doors, damaged hinges, and faulty closers are issues we encounter every day and can render your fire door useless.

In a high-traffic environment like a school, proactive and regular fire door checks are essential to ensure your building is safe. You also need to ensure that your passive fire protection measures, such as fire breaks and containment walls, are suitable. The best fire door is virtually useless if the ceiling void above it is breached, allowing smoke and flames to pass through.

To request your free fire door inspection checklist – email andrew@blazequel.com with ‘Fire Door Inspection Form’ in the subject line.

If you’re unsure whether your passive fire protection meets standards, consider a professional inspection. This is a specialist technical area.

Be proactive to prevent arson.

AROUND 50% OF ALL SCHOOL-TIME FIRES ARE CAUSED BY ARSON

In 2001, the cost to the UK of arson attacks at schools and educational facilities was estimated to be over £115 million. Even more concerning is the potential impact on the quality of the student’s education if a facility with all its learning resources and years of work is destroyed.

Proactive housekeeping and student education are the best ways to tackle this risk and keep your facility and those within it safe from this threat.

  • Consider these points when working on your strategy:
  • 97% of all school-time fires started within the building.
  • Early afternoon is the most common time for arson incidents.
  • Staff awareness of the risk of daytime fires is essential, and fire safety awareness in all parts of school life should be promoted.
  • Waste and wheelie bins should be kept away from buildings.
  • Automatic fire detection should be considered in high-risk areas.
  • Consider the use of automatic fire extinguishing if appropriate.

Prevent False Alarms

FALSE ALARMS CAN CAUSE COMPLACENCY AND WASTE VALUABLE TIME IN AN EVACUATION, WHICH RISKS LIVES NEEDLESSLY.

Malicious or accidental damage can cause false alarms, which, within seconds, will initiate the evacuation of your entire school building! A typical evacuation can cost £100’s in wasted teaching time, strain the fire service’s time and resources, and possibly land you a bill to repair your fire alarm system!

Consider the following points to help prevent equipment misuse or damage:

  • Good system design will go a long way to preventing the false activation of automatic fire detection. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions.
  • Consider using call point covers to prevent broken glass units’ accidental/malicious activation.
  • Prevent misuse of fire extinguishers by installing them inside cabinets or low-cost covers.
  • Prevent misuse of fire exits for building access by installing fire door alarm units that can be wirelessly interlinked to a central office!

Fire Log Book & Record Keeping

ACCURATE RECORD-KEEPING IS ESSENTIAL AS PROOF OF COMPLIANCE

All your fire safety procedures should be recorded in a fire log book as proof of compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 2005. During a fire or fire safety inspection, your insurers, the fire service or a court of law may request to see your fire log book.

Your fire logbook should be available near the building entrance so that the fire service can easily access it in the event of a fire. Any site plans, fire evacuation strategies, and risk assessments should also be available to ensure that they have the information they need to swiftly understand the risks on site and react accordingly without delay.

5 TOP TIPS

  1. Store your logbook in a fire-resistant lockable cabinet close to the fire alarm panel at the main entrance.
  2. Have a spare key inside a break-glass box beside the cabinet for emergency access.
  3. Keep digital copies and scans of your fire log book materials! If you lose your logbook or it is totally destroyed in a fire, you may have lost all of your proof of fire safety compliance!
  4. Use a free service like Dropbox or Google Docs to store your digital backup offsite!
  5. Ensure that someone is responsible for the weekly/monthly fire safety checks that you must carry out and record in your logbook. Make sure all staff know when this will happen so they know to expect the alarm sounding!

Maintenance Checklist

A QUICK SELF-AUDIT TO HELP YOU ENSURE THAT YOU’RE COMPLIANT

There are many different things you need to check onsite on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to ensure your fire protection equipment is all in good working order. Leaving your fire protection for the 3-6 monthly visits by the fire safety maintenance engineer isn’t an option!

Complete this checklist to ensure you fulfil your duties onsite for the most common equipment!

common equipment checklist

THINK – Do you have any other fire equipment onsite? Should this be check as well?

…Constantly Review Your Fire Safety

DON’T REST ON YOUR LAURELS – THERE’S ALWAYS WAYS TO IMPROVE!

If you are meeting all of the points raised in this document, that is fantastic – give yourself a big pat on the back because you’ve taken some necessary steps towards keeping yourself, your colleagues, and your students safe from the risk of fire!

However, things change, and you should continually review your fire safety policies to ensure you keep up with changes at your school and technological advances that could improve your safety.

Some points to consider are:

  • Ensure you review your PEEP’s every term if a new student has been added with specialist requirements.
  • Remember to review your FRA at least annually and after any building works occur.
  • Proactive housekeeping is essential to prevent arson or the rapid spread of fire. Student displays in the corridors must be covered with a glass display screen, and loose papers should be laminated to reduce flammability.
  • Consider automatic fire suppression systems in high-risk areas such as school kitchens/ canteens, server rooms, and plant/boiler rooms.

Schools can maintain a safe learning environment by following these top ten fire safety actions and utilizing resources.

If you have any questions while reading this guide, please speak to one of our experienced advisors or email us. We will be glad to help!

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