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Fire Protection Considerations for Schools

Fire Protection Considerations for Schools

All schools have a wide-ranging duty of care to the children attending their institution, and one of the key elements in this is protecting them from the dangers of fire.

As with all other workplaces, fire safety within schools and other educational establishments is covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This dictates that, among other things, fire risk assessments need to be regularly undertaken, with the aim of:

  • Identifying fire risks
  • Identifying individuals at risk
  • Evaluating, removing and reducing fire hazards
  • Planning and training for the event of a fire
  • Reviewing those risks and plans on a regular basis

However, schools and colleges have their own particular circumstances that need to be taken into account, and in this article we’re going to examine just a few of the key fire protection considerations for schools.

Fire safety considerations for schools

Who is responsible for fire safety in a school?

All premises covered by the Fire Safety Order should have a designated ‘responsible’ person. In the case of a school, this is likely to be the headmaster, the board of governors or someone appointed by them to carry out the role.

It is the duty of this responsible person to ensure both that fire risk assessments are carried out and that any recommendations or instructions resulting from them are enacted. Any premises covered by the Fire Safety Order is liable for inspection by the local fire and rescue service to check that the laws in this regard are being followed satisfactorily.

What are the fire risks within schools?

It has been reported that schools in England pose a fire risk that is 1.7 times greater than non-residential buildings and are three times more likely to be a ‘high’ fire risk than other non-household premises. 

Educational establishments face multiple fire risks, many of which are common to all commercial and non-residential premises, but some of which are unique to, or at least far more likely at, a school or college campus. These include:

  • Arson – Arson is the leading cause of fires in schools, with some 1,400-1,800 cases a year in the UK and one in eight schools having experienced a serious arson attack.
  • Smoking – Children generally have less awareness of the consequences of their actions and as smoking is already a banned activity likely to be carried out surreptitiously, there is a greater risk than when done in a controlled area. And smoking is already one of the most common reasons for fires, even without that extra element.
  • Accidents – Along with arson, human error is a leading cause of fire, not just in schools but in many other establishments. However, most schools have hundreds or even thousands of children on the premises at any time, both making effective monitoring difficult and also making accidental fires even more likely.
  • High – Secondary schools in particular are likely to have higher risk areas, subjects and activities, such as chemistry labs, workshops and cookery.
  • Electrical appliances – All premises run a risk of fire from faulty electrical appliances, but schools possess more than most, from computers and catering appliances to audio-visual and workshop equipment.
  • Kitchen fires – School kitchens are extremely busy places with catering being carried out on a large scale, making fires there a constant risk.
  • Storage and housekeeping – We may be living in a digital age, but there is still likely to be a great deal more paper on a school site than in many other premises, while stationery and store cupboards are also likely to contain combustible materials. 

Ways to reduce the risk and danger of fires in schools

  • Regular fire drills – Having over 1,000 children to organise is likely to be scary enough under any circumstances, but is going to be twice as problematic in an emergency situation. That’s why regular fire drills need to be built into your schedule so that everyone knows what they should be doing in the event of a fire.
  • Good housekeeping – Regular patrols to prevent buildup of rubbish that could catch fire, keeping kitchens clean and tidy, regular PAT testing, keeping escape routes free of clutter and many other activities can make fires considerably less likely.
  • Fire doors – With so many combustibles present, fire could spread quickly through school premises without fire doors that are both up to the job and kept closed when not in use.
  • Arson prevention measures – Adding an effective security system, such as an intruder alarm and/or CCTV cameras can help prevent potential arsonists. You also need to ensure that windows and doors are securely locked at night and avoid accumulations of combustible material that could be used to deliberately start a fire.
  • Training – You need to have a reliable team of qualified fire marshals, plus all staff should undergo fire safety training at least once a year to ensure that your team can respond effectively in an emergency.

How Scutum South East can help

Here at Scutum South East, we’ve been supporting schools across London and the south east of England with their fire safety and security measures for years. With decades of experience and expertise in the education sector, we can support you with everything from fire alarms, fire extinguishers and fire doors to carrying out professional fire risk assessments.

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About Scutum South East

Scutum South East is a leading expert in fire safety and security solutions for businesses and organisations located across South East England, including London and Surrey.

From fire alarms, fire extinguishers and fire risk assessments to access control, CCTV and intruder alarm systems – and a lot more besides – we offer a comprehensive range of products and services designed to keep you, your business and your staff and visitors safe.

With decades of industry experience to call on, we’re proud to hold accreditations from leading trade associations and bodies such as British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE), the British Fire Consortium, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) and Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).

If you’d like to find out more about Scutum South East, get in touch with our friendly team or explore our products and services on our site.

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