Beating the school fire challenge
Between 1,400 and 1,800 fires are estimated to take hold in UK schools each year, affecting approximately 90,000 children. Since a third of these fires start during school time, that means around 600 incidents a year when children have to be evacuated from their classrooms; that’s 600 incidents that may potentially result in casualties.
Statistically, urban areas are most likely to suffer fires, with the South East and London regions reporting the highest numbers. But that doesn’t mean rural areas are immune from the dangers, and these schools should be just as aware of that risk.
Unsurprisingly, the financial consequences of school fires are significant, with costs in the decade 1995 to 2005 alone measured at £65 million.
In addition to the monetary burden, the wider repercussions include the impact on students themselves and local communities. In areas where a school has suffered a fire, staff and students have reported that the resulting disruption can have a negative effect on exam results and morale.
It goes without saying that fire prevention should be of upmost priority to any school or educational facility. Alongside this, it is vital that systems are in place to deal with fire hazards swiftly.
But what happens when a fire has already begun?
This will depend on the type of safety system in place. In the case of a smoke control system, it will activate via a signal from the fire alarm or smoke detection system – going into action as soon as a fire is detected.
While the design and components will vary depending on the layout of the building, the system will typically comprise of a number of natural smoke ventilators, smoke extract fans and smoke curtains that work together to reduce the spread of smoke and extract it from the building in a controlled manner.
Smoke control and extraction is vital for safeguarding escape routes and providing clear access for fire crews to locate and extinguish the fire. It also helps prevent the spread of smoke and fire throughout the building – a key in helping to reduce asset damage, not just in schools but in any building.
With schools that are maintained by a local education authority, responsibility for fire safety is usually shared between the authority, the governing body and the head teacher. Between them, they must ensure that fire precautions in such premises comply with all relevant health and safety legislation and that all fire safety systems are properly installed and maintained.
It’s important to note the level of fire protection required is proportional to the risk posed to the safety of the individuals using the premises and therefore, the objective is always to reduce the risk to a level as low as reasonably practicable. The higher the risk of fire and risk to life, the higher the standards of fire protection will need to be – this is why many schools vary in the level of smoke and fire safety systems they have in place.
While smoke and fire safety within educational facilities can appear complex, it’s vital to remember that no matter what system is in place there is a legal, mandatory requirement to ensure that regular preventative maintenance routines are carried out by a suitably experienced and accredited specialist service provider. That way, that if the worst happens, everything is going to work and occupants stand the best possible likelihood of safe escape.
Brakel Airvent is the UK’s leading provider of turnkey whole-life service and maintenance for all types of smoke control systems. The company has built a reputation for servicing systems designed and installed by its competitors, as well as its own network of design and install partners.
Brakel Airvent offers maintenance and repair services that cover a whole range of smoke ventilation and associated systems and requirements including: site-specific planned preventative maintenance packages, regulatory compliance and certification, comprehensive spares support and engineering consultancy, including design review, cause & effect and risk assessment.
With a UK-wide network of Brakel certified installation partners and UK-wide, 24/365 emergency call out within 4 hours, Brakel Airvent doesn’t just provide exemplary service and maintenance – it provides peace of mind.