A school is one of the worst places for a fire to break out, as the costs to both the local authority and the community at large are often substantial. Thankfully most educational establishments have detailed fire drill strategies in place to prevent loss of life, but there are still many other damaging effects which are easily preventable by observing proper fire safety and prevention in schools. UK students lose approximately 90,000 days collectively each year to fire damage, so what more can be done to ensure fire safety in schools?
Identify High Risk Areas
With such a wide range of activities occurring at every school it is important that you are prepared for every eventuality. Are your chemicals stored correctly in the Science block? Is there an extraction method in Design Technology? Has your lighting rig in the Drama studio been PAT tested? Ensuring each department is aware of the risks in their own particular workspace is crucial to maintaining effective fire vigilance.
It is also important that non-teaching staff maintain a similar level of vigilance over their areas of work. Boiler-houses, caretaker cupboards, electrical switchrooms and general storage areas all pose a higher than normal fire risk, and should be inspected regularly.
Schools also tend to create a lot of waste which must be stored and disposed of properly, and quite often the majority of this material is paper-based. Most general rubbish bins tend to be emptied into communal vessels, but are yours properly maintained? Is there a risk if a fire should break out here?
Prepare Your Staff and Students
Regular fire drills are an essential part of any school’s fire prevention strategy, but they are far from the only safety procedure necessary. Each member of staff should be fully aware of their responsibilities both during a fire and throughout normal school operation.
For example, you should designate checks and inspections to certain members of staff for particular areas, and have regular meetings where faults and repairs can be discussed. Staff should also be made aware of every piece of fire prevention equipment, including sprinklers, extinguishers and fire alarm pull stations.
When a drill itself is conducted there should be an audit to ensure every pupil has been made safe and each staff member has carried out his or her duties correctly. Drills should be regularly conducted and done so in varying times and conditions to avoid familiarity. Exit strategies for every room in the school should be drawn up and adhered to, ensuring that both staff and students are rehearsing good practice each and every time.
Malicious Fire Prevention
Approximately 60% of all school fires are started deliberately, and whilst many are a simple prank which has grown out of control it is important that preventative measures are put in place to cover any kind of arson attack.
To combat the risk of students starting a malicious blaze you should try to reduce pupil access to particularly flammable areas, particularly if they are unsupervised. Storage areas should be locked, workshops must be made off-limits without a member of staff present, and students themselves should be introduced to fire-safety awareness assemblies.
To prevent intruders starting a malicious fire you should do what you can to secure the external area of the school and deter unauthorised entry to any part of the site. In addition to your internal inspections have staff conduct external checks to determine what a potential arsonist could set fire to, and remove anything you can do reduce the future risk.