FIRE SAFETY IN SCHOOLS BUILDING OUR FUTURE: SCOTLAND'S SCHOOL ESTATE
IDENTIFYING AND MANAGING RISKS
1. Health and safety responsibilities in schools include fire safety 16 and the employer is required to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of:
- the risks to the health and safety of employees whilst they are at work, in accordance with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations
- the risks to the health and safety of other persons (e.g. pupils, parents, contractors) whilst they are on the premises
- to record the significant findings of the assessment where five or more people are employed (whether or not they are at work in the same school at any one time or at separate workplaces).
2. Where the assessment relates to general fire precautions for the safety of employees, the fire service is responsibile for enforcement. In practice, the fire service will tend to concentrate activities on workplaces with a higher fire risk than schools (but provision of boarding accommodation is likely to influence their inspection programme). Guidance 17 to employers explains what fire risk assessment is and how to go about it. It also focuses on the provision of fire precautions in the workplace in the light of the findings of fire risk assessment.
3. Local authorities and Head Teachers need to manage fire safety in the same way they manage other health and safety issues, by implementing the policies agreed and monitored by the employer. To do this they will usually consult professionals from within the local authority, the local fire service and their insurers.
4. The main duties regarding fire safety management are to:
- make hazard and risk assessments
- be responsible for fire safety training
- produce an emergency plan and put up fire notices
- conduct fire drills
- check the adequacy of fire fighting apparatus and its maintenance
- consult with and implement recommendations of the local fire service
- conduct fire safety inspections, preferably every term
- make more frequent informal checks to confirm that the fire safety rules are being followed
- ensure fire escape routes and fire exit doors/passageways are unobstructed and doors operate correctly
- check that fire detection and protection systems are maintained and tested and records kept
- ensure close down procedures are followed
- include fire safety in the regular health and safety reports.
5. It is useful to keep a fire logbook to record essential information such as evacuation procedures, tests on fire fighting equipment, details of training sessions and results of fire drills.
6. For a risk assessment to be suitable and sufficient it should cover all aspects of the schools use and take account of all of the people likely to use the building. A risk assessment should follow the steps 18 set out opposite.
7. They identify possible hazards and suggest suitable precautions. The hazards are grouped in two tables. The first group can be dealt with by the school itself, whereas the second is likely to require professional input to the risk assessment. Professional advice can be obtained from local authority risk managers, fire services, police crime prevention officers and insurance companies.
Fire risk assessment
STEP 1 Identify all likely fire hazards, including ignition sources and sources of fuel.
STEP 2 Decide who may be in danger and note their locations. Consider the needs of staff, visitors, pupils, contractors, young, old and disabled.
STEP 3 Evaluate the risks and carry out the necessary training to minimise the risks.
Decide if the existing fire safety measures are good enough, or if more needs to be done to make reasonably sure that nobody would be injured if a fire occurs.
Do this by checking:
- controls on ignition sources/sources of fuel
- that a fire can be detected in a reasonable time and that people can be warned
- that people who may be in the building can get out safely
- provision of fire fighting equipment
- maintenance and testing of fire precautions
- that fire safety training is adequate to ensure that those in the building know what to do if there is a fire.
A checklist is useful in identifying the hazards and risks. 19
STEP 4 Record findings and take action.
In particular you should list the more significant hazards and your most important conclusions, for example:
Rubbish bins Kept in secure compound that is locked when not in use and located away from building structure
Electrical sockets No sockets found overloaded. Portable equipment checked regularly. Electrical installations tested every five years or more frequently if in poor condition.
Prepare an Emergency Plan.
Inform, instruct and train employees in fire precautions.
STEP 5 Keep assessment under review. Check that it is up to date and revise it if necessary.
You must review your fire risk assessment and your fire safety measures on a regular basis. This should be done if:
- changes to the school are proposed
- changes to any activity are proposed, such as the introduction of flammable material to science rooms
- changes to the number and needs of people
- a near miss or a fire occurs.
HAZARDS THAT CAN BE DEALT WITH BY THE SCHOOL
Evacuation in the event of a fire.
Fire practice drills.
Suitable fire action notices displayed.
PE mats of the type that burn to produce toxic gas.
Flammable foam filled furniture.
Identify combustible materials.
Make sure they are not stored on escape routes or near sources of ignition; reduce fire risk.
Store in one hour fire rated store.
Replace or locate in area of low fire risk, e.g. away from escape routes.
Fire exit doors locked, poorly maintained or without Fire Exit signs.
Ensure doors are regularly inspected and maintained. Locks or fastenings should be able to be over-ridden without the use of a key from the side approached by people making an escape. A notice should be displayed explaining the operation of the device. Fire Exit signs should be provided where appropriate.
Sources of ignition.
Reduce the risk of fire, by identifying possible sources of ignition.
Light bulbs and fittings near flammable materials.
Replace tungsten filament bulbs by fluorescent fittings in areas where there is a possibility that combustible materials may be ignited.
Overloaded multi-point adapters in electrical sockets.
Alternatively, move fittings or combustibles.
Only use adapters where it is unavoidable. Do not overload. Provide additional sockets if necessary.
Portable electric or LPG heaters in use.
Replace naked flame and radiant heaters with fixed convectors or a central heating system.
Remove waste frequently.
Unsecured moveable waste and recycling bins and skips left near school buildings.
Bins at least ten metres away from any building, either locked to a metal post or within a secure enclosure.
Flammable wall and ceiling finishes.
Remove or treat flammable wall or ceiling linings.
Location and quantity of display materials on escape routes kept under control. Displays can be sprayed with fire retardant.
Highly flammable materials.
Store highly flammable materials in fire-resisting stores away from sources of ignition.
Hazardous spaces, such as heat bay areas in design technology and chemistry laboratories.
Procedures to reduce risk established and followed; fire resistant materials used where needed and fire fighting apparatus provided.
Ducts, chimneys and flues.
Keep clean and in good repair.
Contractors, e.g. using naked flame or heat processes.
Operate a hot work permit system.
Give outside contractors and maintenance staff fire safety information.
Smoking areas, if allowed.
Provide ashtrays and fire-proof waste bins for cleaners.
Sub-standard electrical installation posing a fire risk, e.g. due to insulation breakdown on old wiring.
Keep electrical inspection and testing up to date and carry out repairs.
Dangers from electrical equipment.
Carry out portable appliance tests.
Only allow a competent nominated person to wire plugs, using the correct sizes of fuse.
Keep flexes as short as possible and never use equipment with damaged cables.
Take faulty equipment out of use immediately.
Make sure that staff know how to isolate the main electrical supply in an emergency.
Fire fighting apparatus.
In correct locations and tested annually.
HAZARDS REQUIRING PROFESSIONAL ADVICE
Escape routes involving corridors and stairs.
Limited travel distances, enclosing construction has adequate fire resistance, fire exits, exit and directional signs and possibly emergency escape lighting.
Hazardous areas, e.g. kitchen, boiler room, and chemical store.
Enclosing construction has adequate fire resistance.
Combustible wall or ceiling linings which could promote rapid spread of flames.
Surfaces have adequate resistance to surface spread of flame.
Fire doors not fitted with smoke/fire seals, damaged or poorly fitting in door frames.
Fire doors provided at appropriate positions have correct fire and smoke rating and in good working order.
Gas in kitchens, domestic science or science laboratories.
Isolate gas supply preferably with removable key or automatic gas isolation system.
Extinguishing the fire.
Adequate means of access and facilities including water supply for fire brigade.
Adequate fire fighting apparatus for occupants, e.g. hose reels, extinguishers, sand buckets and fire blankets.
Evacuation of disabled people.
Design for any special needs, such as the provision of temporary waiting spaces on escape stairs.
Buildings with over-large fire compartments.
Very difficult to correct; some low cost improvement may be possible.
Inadequate fire/smoke barriers between fire compartments.
Difficult to assess without investigating ceiling voids. Fire plans should show where fire barriers are located.
Inadequate fire stopping of services penetrations, such as ducts, pipework and cableways.
Additional fire doors and fire stopping installed in fire strategic locations.
Inadequate fire resistance of ducts, flues and chimneys.
Increase fire resistance.
Out of date system, with poor wiring and liable to false alarms.
Update system, test and maintain to BS 5839.
Fire alarm break glass call points inadequate.
Upgrade number and location.
Locality of high fire risk due to arson.
Provision of automatic detectors, sprinkler system or other measures.
Hazardous areas, e.g. kitchen, boiler room and chemical store.
Provision of automatic heat or smoke detectors.
8. Many schools provide extra curricular activities for pupils, and community use in the evening and at weekends. The local building control officer should be consulted to establish if a building warrant is required for the extension of use from educational establishment to community facilities.
9. Often only part of the school is open in the evenings and at weekends and it is normal to unlock only those parts of the school which are actually in use. This needs to be done carefully to avoid shutting off escape routes. People using the school in the evening may be unfamiliar with the layout of the building and have additional needs, for example in the marking of exit routes. Visitors should always be aware of the fire drill and the means of escape from the building.
10. Community groups sometimes bring their own equipment into a school, for example drama groups often bring their own lighting and sound equipment. Such equipment should be checked beforehand to confirm that it:
- complies with the safety requirements for portable equipment
- will not impose unduly high loads on electrical services
- will be properly used by competent people
- is compatible.
11. When a school is used by members of the public for dancing, music, stage or film shows then a public entertainment, theatre or cinema licence may be required. Any function at which alcohol is offered for sale will need a licence, application for which should be made to the Clerk to the local Licensing Board. Other licences are issued by local authorities under the terms of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act and will usually impose conditions on, amongst other things:
- the number of people present
- the type of seating
- the layout of the seating
- the marking of emergency exits
- the provision of emergency lighting.
12. In some areas it is possible that a fire officer will inspect the school before the licence is issued and in some cases, it is possible that a check will be made when performances are in progress to confirm that the conditions laid down in the licence are being met.
13. Areas of the school that are open to the public during public performances, such as school plays, should have emergency lighting on escape routes. Someone should take responsibility for checking that fire exit doors are functional and that other fire precautions are in place before the public is admitted. Competent attendants are also required to look after the public during the performance. They should:
- be identifiable to the public
- carry a torch whenever part of the public areas are in darkness
- ensure there are no areas of overcrowding
- keep exits and gangways clear
- be aware of the needs of disabled people.
14. The number of attendants required will depend on the size of the audience and the type of performance. The responsible person and the attendants should be familiar with the fire routine, escape routes and the need for any fire doors to be kept shut. Refresher training on emergency procedures for the responsible persons should be held at least once a year.
15. Rooms used for general assembly or other audiences where there is likely to be more than 60 people present, should have emergency lighting. Hand held torches carried by attendants and available in dressing rooms are also a useful addition during evacuation of the building.
16. The objectives of fire safety training are:
- to make everyone aware of the importance of fire safety
- to ensure competence in the school evacuation procedures
- to provide staff with a knowledge of basic fire fighting.
17. Very few people have experienced a fire and the feeling of panic that it can cause. Training can overcome this to some extent. It should stress the importance of keeping fire doors shut at all times. Every pupil and member of staff should receive training in:
- general fire prevention
- action to be taken if they discover a fire
- how to raise the alarm
- action to be taken on hearing the alarm
- location of escape routes and assembly points
- evacuation and roll call procedures.
18. Members of staff should also be given training in:
- the operation of the fire alarm control panel
- the procedure for alerting the fire service
- the location of fire fighting equipment
- the use of fire fighting equipment
- the arrangements for the safe evacuation of disabled staff and pupils
- stopping machinery
- liaising with the fire service on arrival.
19. In large schools it may not be necessary to train all staff in the use of fire fighting equipment, but a sufficient number of trained staff should always be present when the school is occupied. All staff should know what hazards the fire extinguishers cover and the dangers of using the wrong type of extinguisher in areas of special risk, such as on fat fires in kitchens and on electrical or chemical fires. Staff should also be given training in directing, and if necessary, guiding members of the public to a place of safety and checking that they are all out of the building. This process is greatly assisted by an access control system, which requires members of the public to sign in and out of the premises.
20. The fire service may provide training in the use of fire fighting apparatus, such
as extinguishers. Some fire services may also provide practical courses on fire safety for fire safety managers and headteachers.
21. There should be a fire drill at least once a year and preferably once a term. This should be based on the scenario that one or more of the fire escape routes is affected by fire and cannot be used. Members of the school management team or, possibly, the health and safety representatives, should act as observers and be told beforehand of the drill. It is also helpful if a member of the local fire service attends, at the debriefing they can point out lessons to be learned and areas where improvements can be made.
EXAMPLE OF A FIRE LOG BOOK
Fire Alarm Tests
Call Point/Detector Tested
System Tested By
22. Fire drills cannot adequately simulate the confusion and uncertainty, which can arise in an emergency. Evacuation procedures should make allowance for:
- false alarms Any delay in evacuating the premises such as waiting until an alarm is investigated and confirmed as genuine could have very serious consequences. To prevent false alarms it may be necessary to reposition break glass call points and automatic detectors, so that they are more easily supervised by staff. Also anti-tamper devices are available from manufacturers and the local fire safety officer will be able to advise on these.
- full or partial evacuation In large schools, particularly those with a number of separate buildings, restricting evacuation to the block concerned may minimise disruption. However, registration classes may differ from teaching classes and it may therefore be difficult to establish that the building has been fully evacuated. It can also be difficult to know who is on the school site, for example during lunch time. The success of a partial evacuation also depends upon positively identifying the location of the fire and the certain knowledge that it cannot spread to other buildings. Unless there is absolute certainty on these points then a full evacuation should be the rule.
- pupil safety The first priority of staff is the safety of the pupils in their charge. They may choose to lead their class to safety from the front, so that they are best placed to select the safest route. If so, they may have difficulty in making sure that their class stays together. Alternatively, they may guide the class from the rear, in which case route finding may have to be left to the pupils leading the way. There is no single correct answer. Each school must devise its own way of handling evacuations based upon layout, and the age and ability of its pupils.
- disabled staff and pupils Arrangements must be made for the safe evacuation of disabled staff and pupils. This may require special training of staff. Lifts must not be used once the fire alarm has sounded. Evacuation lifts (as defined in BS 5588: Part 8) may be considered acceptable in certain circumstances: the local fire service can advise on this.
- fire fighting Members of staff should only consider fighting a fire after they have seen to the evacuation of the pupils in their charge and raised the alarm. They must inform other members of staff of their intention to fight the fire and must be certain that their actions will not place themselves or others in danger. If they are in the slightest doubt then they must evacuate the building along with their pupils.
EMERGENCY PLAN AND FIRE NOTICES
23. All workplaces are required to have an emergency plan. This should include the actions to be taken by staff in the event of a fire, evacuation procedures and arrangements for calling the fire service. In order to familiarise both staff and pupils with the evacuation procedure it is recommended that a fire action notice should be conspicuously displayed in every occupied room informing occupants:
- how to raise the alarm if they discover a fire
- action to be taken on hearing the alarm
- escape routes to the assembly point
- the location of the assembly point.
24. The last two points may usefully be illustrated on a plan of the school.
25. The age and ability of pupils; use of the school by the community who will be less familiar with the buildings, and the needs of speakers of other languages, should be taken into account when preparing the notices.
26. In workshops, laboratories, craft areas and kitchens it might be appropriate to display fire prevention notices as a reminder to check that, at the end of lessons, equipment is switched off, electric plugs removed from sockets and gas supplies isolated where appropriate. All fire doors, smoke control doors and designated fire exit routes which need marking as a result of a fire risk assessment, are required to be identified by means of signs complying with the Health and Safety (Safety, Signs and Signals) Regulations.20
Close down procedure checklist
27. Good housekeeping and proper close down procedures are important steps in fire prevention.
28. The following close down checks are recommended:
- all flammable materials are locked away
- all valuable equipment is secured
- no cash is left unsecured overnight
- all rubbish/waste has been removed from the building and placed in secure storage
- everyone has vacated the premises and all rooms, especially toilets and showers
- the external lighting is working correctly
- all windows are shut and locked
- all internal doors are closed (to prevent the spread of fire)
- the intruder alarm and fire alarm systems have been correctly set
- all the external doors have been secured
- gates in the perimeter fences are shut.
FIRE FIGHTING EQUIPMENT
The fire service can advise on the choice of fire fighting equipment and its maintenance.
29. If provided these should be marked 'Fire' and have lids to prevent contamination. They are useful for containing spillage of flammable or heavy liquids. It is recommended that two buckets of sand be provided in each laboratory for use in conjunction with an appropriate fire extinguisher. One or the other can deal with nearly every type of outbreak likely to occur in a laboratory.
30. Extinguishers are available to deal with three types of fires that can occur in schools:
- class A fires involve ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper and textiles. Water extinguishers are suitable for these fires
- class B fires involve flammable liquids such as oils, solvents used in chemistry, and cooking fat. Foam, dry powder or carbon dioxide may be used on these fires
- electrical equipment fires Dry powder or carbon dioxide can be used on these (dry powder is also recommended for vehicle fires). Unlike water or foam, they do not conduct electricity.
31. Since 1997 all new extinguishers have been coloured red. Earlier fire extinguishers were identified by a distinctive colour: red for water; cream for foam; blue for dry powder; and black for carbon dioxide. This colour scheme is still used on the labels, but these must not exceed 5% of the surface area of the cylinder. Existing extinguishers need not be replaced until the end of their useful life. Extinguishers should be maintained in accordance with the appropriate British Standard. Weekly checks are recommended to include:
- checking the safety clip and indicating devices to determine whether the extinguisher has been operated
- checking the extinguisher for any external corrosion, dents or other damage that could impair the safe operation of the extinguisher.
32. In addition, a competent person, usually the supplier, should carry out a basic annual service.
33. Hoses are sometimes used in larger buildings, or where there are special risks, as an alternative to portable extinguishers. Due to maintenance costs, many schools are replacing their hosereels with water extinguishers, and the local fire safety officer can provide advice on this. Hoses normally consist of a maximum of 30 metres of 19mm internal bore hose connected to the mains water supply. They should comply with the British Standard on specification for fire hose reels (water) for fixed installations. Hoses should be checked annually.
34. These are normally found in kitchens, laboratories and workshops and should meet the British Standard specification for fire blankets. They can be used to smother small fires involving cooking fat and other flammable liquids. Fire blankets are also invaluable in dealing with people whose clothes are alight and who should be wrapped and rolled in the blanket.
35. Fire fighting apparatus should be located so that it is:
- accessible when needed. If mounted on brackets, its weight should be taken into account in determining the height of the extinguisher above floor level
- protected from accidental damage.
36. In addition to the annual check of fire extinguishers by a competent service engineer, the type and location of each item of fire fighting equipment should be noted on the fire plan.
FIRE DETECTION AND ALARM SYSTEMS
37. Electrically-operated fire detection and alarm systems provide:
- for the prompt and reliable detection of fire
- to alert the occupants so that evacuation can begin
- to inform the fire service so that they can extinguish the fire
- to minimise damage to the buildings and their contents.
38. In small single storey schools with fewer than 160 pupils hand operated bells or gongs may be sufficient to sound the alarm if there is a fire. These should be sited so that they are audible without exposing the operator to danger from fire. In all other schools some form of electronic fire alarm system will be required. An electronic fire alarm system consists of automatic detectors, break glass call points, a control panel and fire alarm sounders.
Use of Fire Fighting Equipment
Fire fighting apparatus
Water (1), (2)
Stages of every assembly hall
On escape routes, so that the walking distance to the nearest extinguisher does not exceed 30m
Foam or Dry Powder
Laboratories (2), (3)
Home economics rooms (3), (4)
Boiler rooms where fuel oil is used
Carbon Dioxide or Dry Powder
Electrical switch rooms and places where live electrical equipment is known or thought to be present, e.g. stage lighting control areas and IT classrooms
Adjacent to fire extinguisher in kitchen, laboratories, design technology practical spaces and assembly halls
Two in each laboratory, adjacent to the extinguishers
(1) In general, one 13A rated extinguisher per 200 square metres, adjusted up or down, depending on the risk, with a minimum of one per floor.
(2) In laboratories and home economics rooms, the capacity of extinguishers should be: for water about 9 litres capacity (13A rated), dry powder about 1.5 kg and carbon dioxide not less than 2.5 kg.
(3) In some laboratories where very volatile liquids are used or fragile equipment is installed, dry powder or carbon dioxide may be preferable to foam.
(4) Where there is no fixed frying equipment, dry powder may be preferable to foam. Automatic detectors
39. When the school is in session every pupil and member of staff may be regarded as an independent, mobile fire detection system. A fire in an area of an occupied building, even one started deliberately, will usually be discovered quickly, the alarm raised and the premises evacuated. However, areas that are unoccupied or partly occupied, for example, during evening use and, particularly those in isolated positions, are more at risk. It follows that automatic fire detection is of greatest value in unoccupied or partly occupied buildings or high risk areas such as boiler rooms and kitchens and that its prime purpose is the protection of property rather than the prevention of loss of life. A fire risk assessment will help identify these high risk areas.
40. It is important that the detector is matched to the environment that it is to protect. For example, it is better to fit a heat detector in a kitchen rather than a smoke detector which could be triggered by the fumes from cooking. The number and location of detectors will depend upon the size of the buildings, their type of construction and the use of different areas within the building.
41. Smoke detectors include ionisation devices that sense smoke particles that are invisible to the naked eye and optical detectors that recognise smoke in the atmosphere.
42. Heat detectors respond to increases in temperature. Older types rely on a strip of plastic or metal melting at a relatively low temperature, but detectors using the expansion of solids, gases and liquids have mostly superseded these. The temperature for the activation has to be outside that normally experienced in the protected area. Some detectors are activated by the rate that temperature rises, as well as by a maximum temperature.
Fire alarm sounders
43. The alarm should be clearly heard throughout the school and continue to operate until the building is evacuated. It should be instantly recognisable and different from every other audible or visible signal used by the school. If the fire alarm system is also used as a class change system, then its continuous operation should indicate a fire while intermittent operation should indicate class change. Visitors and out of hours users may find the use of an intermittent signal confusing, as, in general use, this indicates 'stand-by for evacuation'. They would need to be told that an intermittent signal is used for class change.
44. This monitors the operation of the entire system. Some panels group detectors into zones which are switched on or off from the panel. In this case, a plan of
the school showing the zones should be positioned next to the fire alarm panel.
45. Addressable systems allow each detector to be controlled either individually, or in zones that can be changed as circumstances require.
46. A signalling system can allow the alarm to be raised at the control panel at the school by sounding the alarm, or at a central station by an automatic telephone link. Since the majority of school fires take place when the premises are unoccupied, alerting a central station which provides a rapid response from the fire service is most important. The sounding of bells or sirens alone at an unoccupied school is unlikely to lead to a prompt response. To keep costs down, a telephone link to a central station can be shared with an intruder alarm installation and monitored, so that any tampering with the telephone line will be observed by the central station. The system will run from the mains electrical supply, but if there is a power failure a standby battery will provide continuity of power.
47. The design must reflect the individual circumstances of the school and should allow for ease of operation, reliability, and quick and cheap extension or modification. Various types of alarm systems are described in British Standard 5839 21 together with the levels of protection they provide. The cost of fire detection equipment is such that serious consideration needs to be given to the type of system to be provided. When specifying a system, the maintenance costs as well as the initial capital cost should be considered. Some companies guarantee to provide ongoing maintenance to their systems for a number of years and some offer third party certification to protect the consumer. In the UK the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) provides such certification and has produced a list of approved fire and safety products and services. 22
48. As far as possible, the initial design should take into account the likelihood of further development of the system. If the specification for the control panel takes future growth into account, it becomes possible to add zones and detectors to the system with minimal delay and at least possible cost. In this way the design can take realistic account of resources.
49. The positions suggested in the British Standard for break-glass points, smoke and heat detectors sometimes need to be modified slightly in order to prevent nuisance alarms or damage. Anti-vandal devices offering protection against nuisance alarms are available. It may also be possible to reduce the number of automatic detectors without compromising on safety, to provide a more economical degree of protection of the building fabric. For example, the provision of one automatic detector per fire compartment might be considered. In such cases the local police and fire service should be jointly consulted to explore the feasibility of installing an integrated alarm system providing a minimal combination of intruder and fire detection based on a holistic risk assessment.
50. There is a tendency when specifying fire alarm systems to specify complex state of the art analogue addressable systems together with automatic smoke or heat detectors throughout the buildings. This level of provision is rarely necessary in a school. However, these more sophisticated systems can offer an increased level of protection, a reduction in false alarms, easier testing, and the ability to identify where a fire alarm originates.
51. Professional advice should be sought on the specification of fire alarm systems. This should include the most efficient use of detectors, their location and the minimum amount of automatic detection required. Insurers, the LPCB, the local education authority risk manager or the local fire service can offer advice on fire detection and alarm systems and reputable installers.
Maintenance and testing
52. Fire detection systems should be regularly tested by the user and serviced by a trained and qualified engineer:
- a daily check of the control panel by the user
- a weekly test by the user comprising:
- a manual call point or smoke detector test. Each week a different call point or detector should be selected
- check that the sounders operate and then reset the system
- complete the fire logbook with details of the date, time and trigger device tested, and enter 'Routine Weekly Test' in the event section. Any defects should be entered in the 'Action Required' and reported to a responsible person
- quarterly, yearly and 3 yearly maintenance and testing by a qualified engineer.
53. The costs for maintenance of analogue addressable systems are typically about 20% more than for conventional systems. However, the initial capital cost of an analogue addressable system is usually less than a conventional system, due to the saving in the amount of wiring needed. Analogue addressable systems require a single cable loop, whereas conventional systems require multiple radial cables. When any changes or additions are made to the fire alarm systems it is important that the record drawings are updated.
54. The purpose of emergency lighting is to provide sufficient illumination in the event of a failure of the normal electric lighting, so that a building can be evacuated quickly and safely, and to ensure that processes and machinery can be closed down safely.
55. In schools, emergency lighting is usually only provided in areas not lit by daylight and used out of normal hours. These include halls and drama spaces used for performances, rooms for evening classes and escape routes from all of these areas to final exits from the building. Emergency lighting is not normally provided on other escape routes, since pupils and staff are generally familiar with the buildings and, for most of the year, daylight normally extends to the end of the school day. Examples of places where emergency lighting might be considered are escape corridors, escape stairways and corridors without any windows. It should always be provided in residential accommodation. If necessary, escape routes should be checked when it is dark to assess whether emergency lighting is required. In some cases fluorescent marker lines may be effective: these reduce the level of light necessary to see the escape route.
56. Halls and other areas used by the public after dark are likely to need emergency lighting that is permanently illuminated. On designated escape routes and fire escape stairs, the non-maintained type, which will only operate when the normal electric lighting fails and will operate for not less than one hour's duration, may be sufficient. The advice of the local fire service should be obtained, particularly if a public entertainment or other licence is required. Emergency lighting should sufficiently illuminate the escape routes from the building, together with the fire alarm call points, the fire fighting equipment, exit signs and any permanent hazards along the escape routes, such as changes of direction or stairs. Emergency lighting should be maintained by a competent person and should be checked at least every month.
A MANAGEMENT CHECKLIST
Fire Safety Policy and Responsibilities
Consult the Employer's Fire Safety Policy and establish responsibilities of staff for fire safety.
Fire Hazard and Risk Assessment
Identify all fire risks and adopt appropriate control measures.
Provide and Maintain Fire Safety Equipment and Fire Fighting Apparatus Training
Teaching, non-teaching staff and pupils should all receive training in fire evacuation procedures and fire prevention awareness. Staff should be trained in the use of fire fighting equipment.
This will cover the actions to be taken to minimise the effects of a fire upon your school.
Checks and Records
Establish procedures to carry out regular fire checks and record the results.
Day to day measures to minimise the fire risks. These include storage of flammable material, heat processes, temporary heaters and waste disposal.
Good general security can help to reduce the risk of arson.
Monitor and Review
Fire safety is an on-going task. The risks constantly change, therefore the effectiveness of risk control measures must be regularly reviewed.