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Fire safety in schools: How to keep staff and students safe.

Fire safety in schools is an important topic that should never be taken lightly. This blog will give you all the information you need to understand what is required for school fire safety measures.

School fires can range from small external rubbish fires to larger, more damaging internal fires that seriously affect the operation of a school. 

Schools must ensure that the study environment for their students and staff is always up to date and safe.

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Fire safety practice in the UK is based on the Regulatory Reform order, and the reformed order doesn’t provide specific examples, such as fire safety in schools. Hence, we’ve written a guideline and explained what you need to consider when doing the fire safety risk assessment.

What is the leading cause of fire in schools in the UK?

Data from UK fire and rescue services (FRSs) reported by Zurich found only 2% of schools suffering from fire incidents had sprinklers fitted. Many of these buildings had poor fire detection and prevention measures. 

Listed below are the three leading causes of fires in schools in the UK.

  1. Arson

One of the major causes of fires in schools in the UK is arson. The unfortunate reason is not due to accidental fires, but more malicious intent. It is most common for arson to happen when the building is unoccupied, but this can also occur during school hours. An installed sprinkler system would be the best defence mechanism in such situations. 

  1. Accidental fires.

Just like intentional fires, unintentional fire incidents can occur. UK secondary schools have, on average, 1000 students enrolled, and staff members cannot monitor every student, especially high school students. 

In many cases, cigarettes are thrown in areas that are not fire-regulated, and there are instances where flammable chemicals can spill.

  1. Neglecting fire safety systems.

It is vital for school wardens and those responsible for planning and conducting the fire safety risk assessment to always ensure that sprinkles, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and any other fire detecting equipment are well maintained and functioning correctly.

Consequences of a fire in the school.

  1. Injuries

Fires often claimed the lives of innocent people. Over 20 years in which the UK has seen over 15,000 fires in schools, we’ve only had one person lose their life. Though this is a terrible incident, the victim wasn’t a student. 

Fire drills in schools and evacuation training are two of the main reasons why we have been lucky not to have significant casualties. 

This shows how important it is to have processes in place, and helps keep staff and students safe.

  1. Finance

A study by Zurick published on the 5th November 2020, states that firefighters have been called to nearly 2,000 school blazes in England alone for the past three years. The leading causes of fires were malfunctioning appliances or equipment, faulty electrics, arson and kitchen blazes.

The damage of larger fires in schools costs on average £2.8 million to repair and, in some cases, over £20 million. Unfortunately, not all schools can sustain such costs, leading to closures.

Aside from the financial costs and the risk to life.

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Fire can cause long-term disruption and damage to the lives of staff and children, including their education. It can destroy school records, school work and teachers’ notes, affect morale and feelings of safety, impact exam results, and lead to bad publicity.

Classrooms and community facilities can become unusable for long periods, and many classes may need temporary accommodation while rooms are rebuilt, or entire schools can be destroyed. 

Classrooms and community facilities can become unusable for long periods, and many classes may need temporary accommodation while rooms are rebuilt, or entire schools can be destroyed. Whole communities can be affected. And, of course, the most frightening thing is that many innocent lives are put at risk.

Who is responsible for fire safety in schools?

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Both the person responsible and fire wardens must do what?

The person responsible is your fire safety officer. Depending on the school, this can be one or a group of people who are knowledgeable about fire safety in schools. The headteacher will be responsible for fire safety, and the deputies will be fire wardens.

The person responsible must :

  • Deliver a fire risk assessment.
  • Communicate the risks found to all staff members.
  • Introduce and maintain fire safety measures.
  • Provide legally-mandated fire safety training to all staff members.
  • Plan emergency protocols such as fire evacuation procedures and assembly points.

Who do these regulations apply to?

Fire safety regulations apply to all different educational institutions. This includes:

  • Nurseries
  • Free schools
  • Specialized schools
  • Primary schools
  • Secondary schools
  • Academies
  • Pupil referral units

Five main steps that should be covered in the risk assessment.

  1. Identifying any risks and hazards such as the source of ignition, oxygen, and fuel.
  2. Identifying people at risk both inside and outside school property. It is vital to identify those at risk, such as any member of staff or students who might have mobility issues or any other physical health-related issues. 
  3. The risk assessment must evaluate, remove, reduce, and protect every person who works within the school and take every precaution to prevent any risk of someone getting hurt if there is a fire.
  4. After the evaluation, the next step is to record, instruct, and train staff and students on how to avoid fire situations. For this step, you must record any significant findings and actions taken, give training, and notify those responsible about their responsibilities in case there’s ever a fire in the school.
  5. Review the guidelines regularly and ensure that everybody is provided with the necessary training.

Fire risk assessments are critical and shouldn’t be ignored. It safeguards the lives of staff, students, and school property. Paying attention to fire regulations ensures innocent lives and school property are always safe.

Does a school have to have a Fire Alarm?

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According to, all schools are legally required to have a fire safety plan. This is called a fire safety risk assessment (FSRA). 

In a small establishment, it is likely that a fire started can be detected easier, faster, and dealt with before a fire has time to spread and cause significant property damage or hurt someone.

As part of the evaluation and its findings, it is almost definite that the risk assessment will require the school to have fire alarms on all floors.

Fire alarms are a must, as they help alert everyone on the premises that there is a fire, allowing everyone to evacuate.

While there isn’t any specific legislation requiring schools to have a fire alarm, it is highly recommended that every school invest in them. 

It is also important to note that because schools use school bells to indicate when classes start or finish, the fire alarm and school bell sound differently. All staff members and students must perform fire drills, so everyone is clear on evacuating the premises in case of an actual fire incident.

What’s unique about 1st Attendance courses is that we can bring our team to your workplace and adapt our training sessions to suit you. 

If you have any questions, send us your enquiries here or click on the link below to get a quote.