While the number of school fires has decreased over recent years, they remain a major risk for schools. Each year around 1 in 20 schools experiences a fire and nearly 60% of school fires are started deliberately. The short-term effects of loss of facilities and equipment can be calculated, but the longer-term effects of loss of coursework, disruption of classes and lowering of morale are much harder to quantify. However, it is clear that a major fire is likely to disrupt a child’s education for many months and could mean postponing tests and exams.
Source – Building Bulletin 100 (BB 100)
1- Arson Reduction
As stated above, 60% of all school fires are deliberate. Given the nature of the site, most are probably started as pranks and aren’t intended to get out of control. However, some will be planned, malicious attacks.
Around 1 in 8 schools are subjected to an arson attack every year. Although stopping arson attacks is virtually impossible, you can lower your risk by following these simple steps:
- take steps to deter unauthorised entry onto the site;
- use access control systems to prevent unauthorised entry into the buildings;
- reduce the opportunity for an offender to start a fire by controlling storage of flammable materials;
- reduce the scope for potential fire damage;
By being vigilant and aware of what a potential arsonist could burn and how accessible it is could greatly reduce the risk.
The next most common source of fires in schools is the storage of combustible materials. Paper and cardboard are obviously used extensively in schools, and with the limited storage space often posed in these environments, the potential for storing these items alongside sources of ignition is more likely. For example, cupboards housing electrical equipment may become storage areas for other combustible items which results in a potentially dangerous mix of fuel and ignition in an enclosed area. Simple fire safety advises that sources of fuel and sources of ignition are kept separately.
Gymnastic mats are also another source of fuel that gets overlooked. With space at a premium, these are not often stored in suitable stores. Regulations state that gymnastic mats should be stored in a purpose-built store having a fire resistance of 60 minutes, and where possible be ventilated to open air. Gymnastic mats produce a dense, toxic smoke when ignited and if the smoke breaches the store, the risk of limiting access to escape routes is increased.
These are just two of the most common examples of fire safety issues found during inspections in schools, and many other factors need to be considered. For example, fire safety training for employees, evacuation plans for each school area, and the regularity of practice fire drills.
If you’re concerned about the fire safety of your school, then contact us immediately. We can provide a no obligation quote for a new comprehensive Fire Risk Assessment, or to review your current Fire Risk Assessment. We can also provide a free site survey to assess existing fire safety systems for compliance with fire legislation.