The Risk of Fire in Schools
9th Dec 2020
A fire risk assessment is an essential part of any business, including educational establishments. In a school or college, there are a range of people who could be vulnerable if a fire broke out, including students, staff, parents and contractors.
Many school buildings pose a higher risk due to the high number of people in the building at one time. A fire risk assessment should address the risks posed to all the above groups and should be reviewed regularly.
Most commonly the head teacher at the school will be the Responsible Person as set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 - although this could be delegated.
All staff should undertake fire safety training so they are made aware of risks and how to mitigate them.
According to a report by Zurich in the last three years, the fire service has been called out to nearly 2,000 school fires. The most common causes of fire on school properties are poor combustible materials storage and arson.
Combustible and Flammable Materials
The way combustible materials are stored is a major fire risk in schools and will be identified in a fire risk assessment. Having locked storage areas for waste away from buildings and boundaries will help reduce this risk. There might be flammable or other high-risk materials stored, which should be held in a secure store – for example chemicals used in a science lab or a grounds maintenance building.
Over 20% of fires in the year 2019/20 in schools were started deliberately. Arson attacks are the leading cause of school fires and these usually take place after school hours. Whilst there is no way to stop a determined individual gaining access to fire risk areas, unauthorised access in general will be deterred by deploying Intruder Alarms, CCTV, gates and barriers, and participation in a Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
Invest in Fire Safety
It is very important to keep your fire alarms and sprinkler systems up to date and maintained with regular testing and training. It is also important to make sure that the staff and pupils are educated regarding the dangers of fire and how to act responsibly if one occurs. This can be achieved through a fire safety training programme.
You should ensure that Fire Drills are carried out on a regular basis so that you can identify any issues that need addressing. This can also be updated along with the Fire Safety policy which will include all roles and responsibilities of staff and a step-by-step evacuation plan if a fire breaks out.