Fire safety in schools is a highly legislated area with a variety of guidelines and regulations in place. This guide will help you negotiate the regulations and find out what you need to know, either as a student, teacher or employee.
Schools present a number of challenges from a fire safety point of view. Schools will generally have all kinds of fire risks from bunsen burners in chemistry class to running large-scale air conditioning and heating and IT systems. In addition managing large numbers of pupils during an evacuation can be difficult and needs careful planning.
Fire Risk Assessment
Fire Risk assessments are a lot simpler than they sound. First, assess the school or building and identify fire hazards. These can be a variety of things – large quantities of electronics or computers, faulty or exposed wiring, old, large or complicated heating systems or other more obvious fire risks.
Schools with science labs are particularly prone to fires and should be carefully managed and supplied with fire extinguishers and blankets, as should school kitchens. A professional fire risk assessment is highly recommended, and Ace Fire can carry out a full UKAS accredited assessment for you.
Fire Safety and Evacuation
Whilst undertaking the fire risk assessment, it would be beneficial to also have a fire safety and evacuation plan completed. These plans should provide a passageway to all escape routes, clearly marked fire exits that get people out of the building as quickly as possible, enough exits and routes for everyone to escape the building and a safe fire assembly point for staff and students far enough from any buildings to be clear of the fire.
To support this, emergency doors that open easily should be fitted, as well as automatic fire doors, emergency lighting and training for staff in both knowing the escape and evacuation routes in order to evacuate large numbers of students.
Run weekly fire alarm tests and fire drills every term. Ensure that you have arrangements in place for people with mobility needs. For example, ensure wheelchair users have a step-free evacuation route and that others will be available to assist in the event of a fire.
Once you have a plan in place, you need to maintain and test fire alarms, detection and warning systems and smoke alarms. Proper fire alarm coverage is crucial, especially for large or older buildings. Ensure you have the right kind of alarm system fitted, and is maintained in accordance to British Standard BS5839 2013. New staff need fire safety training when they start, and the results of fire drills should be recorded to see what improvements can be made, after which drills should be run again to ensure they’re effective.
Finally, flameproofing of materials (Curtains and upholstery), proper fire doors and fire signage could all be the difference between a small fire staying in place or spreading across the entire building. Automatic self closing fire doors will help contain fires and avoid widespread damage. Fire extinguisher provision is important, ensuring you have the correct extinguisher for the risks.
Fighting fires is a matter of using common sense combined with professional fire extinguisher training.
Basic Everyday Precautions
- Have an evacuation plan
- Fire Drill regularly
- Ensure staff know the evacuation plan well
- Consider multiple plans for different times of day, i.e. normal lessons, assembly, evenings, etc.
- Ensure all fire extinguishers are secured and checked regularly
Fire Prevention Systems
- Fire alarms tested regularly
- Enough fire extinguishers, and people trained to use them
- Emergency lighting and doors closing automatically in the event of power failures or fire
- Fire doors, flame proofing and fire signage
- Regular reviews and training to ensure all equipment works correctly
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