10 November 2014

Government statistics show a steady downward trend in fires in schools from approximately 1300 fires in 2000/1 to 700 in 2011/12. However, we shouldn’t become complacent; arson in schools alone still accounts for nearly 180 fires every year.

Technical Manager at the Fire Industry Association, Philip Martin, underlines the requirements for proper fire risk assessments and suggests seven other key actions to keep your school safe from fire. Read on to find out what they are:

1. Nominate a responsible person and make sure staff know who it is. If you are a maintained school, this might well be a specialist within your LA team.

2. Question staff and students to check that they know what to do in case of fire. Everyone should know how to sound the alarm and to get out safely, without delay.

3. Think about the most likely ways in which fires could start. Use of smoking materials and faulty electrical equipment have, in the past, been two of the major causes, but now the most likely source is arson – deliberate ignition. Good lighting, keeping the premises secure and never storing combustible waste near the building, are three practical precautions to minimise your risk.

4. Plan and record your maintenance. You should include all the systems and equipment that might come into play in the event of a fire, such as your fire alarm, your emergency lighting and your extinguishers. You must record these checks and any action found to be needed as a result. Record too when the action was completed.

5. Check fire escape routes regularly and consider anyone who would have special difficulty getting out promptly in a fire. Where this applies, ask the person what support they would need and arrange for it to be provided.

6. Fire authorities are increasingly looking to penalise organisations that raise false alarms. One of the most important things you can do to minimise the chances of a faulty system sending an alarm message, is to ensure yours is regularly checked and serviced in line with the supplier’s recommendations.

7. Don’t rely on automatic (ARC) calls to alert the fire authorities – if there is a fire, always call 999.

You can get further information from the FIA at www.fia.uk.com.