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Fire safety is a matter of great concern for all kinds of properties including educational institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities.
According to recent statistics, 1,500 fires break out on average in educational institutions in the UK every year leaving a huge impact on the social, emotional, mental, and physical well-being of the students, teachers, and staff, on top of causing physical damage to school property and assets.
This is an alarming statistic that creates an unsafe environment for pupils and disrupts learning. To be able for the students to grow and for everyone to feel safe on campus, the school administration must ensure safety in educational institutions and invest in fire alarm solutions for UK schools.
Read on to find out more about fire safety in schools and ways in which fires can be minimised to promote a safe and healthy environment in schools, colleges, and universities all over the UK:
Fires can be deadly and, if not controlled at the right time, they can wreak havoc on human life and property. Several factors can increase the likelihood of fires in educational institutions, and with so many people in schools, colleges, and universities, it is very important to take the necessary safety measures to reduce the risk of fires to a minimum.
Following are some of the most common causes of fires in educational institutions:
Intentional fires or arson are fires that are deliberately started by someone. Most of the time, these are set by younger children out of curiosity and who do not understand the dangers associated with it. Delinquents, who mostly comprise older adolescents, can also set fires on purpose for the sole intent of causing damage and destruction. Lastly, teenagers, often with mental disorders, are also responsible for starting fires as a form of coping mechanism.
Cooking equipment is the second leading cause of school fires and can range from a small grease fire to a gas fire. Since most educational institutions have kitchens and cafeterias on campus, there is a high risk of fires breaking out due to accidents and negligence. Although kitchen fires are usually minor ones that don’t cause a lot of damage, they shouldn’t be ignored and the right safety measures must be taken to keep them under control.
These fires are usually started by heating equipment such as fuel burners, boilers, heaters, water heaters, central heating equipment, and other types of heating equipment. The reason for these fires is mostly due to a fault near or in the equipment. Starting with small sparks that can grow into bigger flames within a matter of minutes, these fires cause their fair share of property damage and suggest gaps in the maintenance of school equipment and infrastructure.
Electrical systems and equipment that are not tested and maintained properly and do not undergo proper servicing can lead to electrical faults, which can in turn lead to electrical fires. These are very common and can cause damage to surrounding areas depending on the materials used for construction and any flammable objects around them. Electrical faults usually start to manifest in the form of flickering, sparks, burning, smoke, and power surges. These issues must never be ignored as they have the potential to turn into something dangerous if not fixed at the right time.
Fire safety in educational institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities is an important part of overall safety and security that must never be overlooked. The results of not giving fire safety its due importance can be catastrophic and may result in serious loss of life and property.
When going to school, and for parents sending their kids to school, there should be a sense of trust and safety and an environment that fosters growth. It is the duty and responsibility of the school owners and administration to take the required steps to minimise all sorts of safety and security risks that could potentially put their students, teachers, staff, and visitors at risk.
In the UK, fire safety is a serious matter that the law does not take lightly. There are legislations in place that emphasise the importance of fire safety and lay out guidelines to follow.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is designed to provide a minimum fire safety standard for non-domestic properties in the UK including all educational institutions. It designates a responsible person to ensure that the school, college, or university is prepared in every way to prevent a fire, identify potential risks, have a fire drill in place, and have the required fire alarm solutions.
The responsible person is the educational institution’s fire safety officer and can either be an individual or a group of individuals responsible for different aspects of fire safety.
If an educational institution doesn’t comply with the fire safety laws laid out by the government, it could face legal action in the form of alteration notices, enforcement notices, prohibition notices, and penalties.
Apart from these legal issues, a lack of fire safety can put human lives in danger, badly damage and destroy school property, and seriously tarnish the school’s reputation.
One of the first steps in ensuring fire safety in educational institutions is to carry out a fire risk assessment that ensures that everyone understands the importance of fire safety and knows about the measures being taken to mitigate the risks.
A fire risk assessment consists of 5 steps that include:
When talking about general fire precautions, they fall under one of the two categories: passive fire precautions and active fire precautions.
Passive fire precautions are considered the backbone of school fire safety and are measures taken to delay the spread of smoke and fire through the school premises. They also help protect the structural integrity of the building and help avoid damage. Fire-rated doors are a good example of passive fire precautions.
Active fire precautions are measures taken to detect smoke and fire and slow down the spread of fire. These include fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, fire alarms, and automatic fire suppression devices such as sprinklers.
Having the right fire alarm solutions in place is one of the best defences against the disastrous consequences of a fire breaking out on school property. These systems give the best chances for early detection and warning in the event of a fire, giving everyone adequate time to safely evacuate. They also minimise the response time from fire and rescue services and limit the damage to the school and its surrounding area.
The type of fire alarm solution you choose for your educational institution will play a crucial role in how effective the system will be at not only detecting the threat at the earliest warning sign but also alerting everyone of the threat.
There are different types of fire alarm solutions for schools, with some also including sprinklers for extinguishing fires and others including two-way communication and remote monitoring services to send instant alerts to the fire and rescue services in the event of the fire alarm triggering.
According to British Standard 5839, also known as BS 5839, fire alarms can be categorised into two broad categories: property protection and life protection.
Property protection fire alarms are used to protect property and will contact fire and rescue services at the early stages of a fire to minimise damage. These systems have automatic sensors installed throughout the property and include a type P1 and type P2 fire alarm.
Life protection fire alarm systems, on the other hand, are used to protect human life and protect people in and around the school from injuries and loss of life. These systems comprise both manual call points as well as automatic fire detection systems.
Manual call points, also called break-glass call points, are small boxes mounted on a wall that contain either a button or a lever to allow you to manually trigger the fire alarm. They are an essential part of fire safety in educational institutions and are a great way to bring everyone’s attention to the threat.
Manual call points can be used in instances where an individual detects a fire before the automatic fire detection system gets a chance to and are an indispensable tool in minimising the detection and response time. They can also be incredibly useful for times when there is a fault in the automatic sensors and they fail to work, and you need to alert everyone of the threat as soon as possible.
Manual call points need to be strategically placed throughout the building so that they can be triggered as soon as an emergency is identified. They are usually located along the escape routes near fire exits so that they can be triggered without the need for slowing down.
According to BS 5839, manual call points must be situated on each floor of a building, shouldn’t be more than 30 metres from any point in the building, shouldn’t be higher than 1.4 metres above the floor, should be in a visible and easily accessible location, and must be present in areas that are identified as high-risk.
Automatic fire detection systems, on the other hand, are systems capable of detecting the earliest signs of a fire without the need for any human intervention. These systems can include a range of methods of fire detection such as sensors that detect the presence of fire, smoke, or heat.
Conventional fire alarm systems are the most common types of fire alarm systems found in smaller buildings with a lower fire risk.
These systems are set up in zones that help identify the location of the fire when the alarm is triggered. Since these zones are relatively broad, they only give an approximate location of the fire, making them more suitable for smaller schools, colleges, and universities.
Addressable fire alarm systems are different from conventional systems in that since each fire detection device has an electronic address, it identifies the exact point where the fire has erupted.
These systems are capable of giving more precise information about the location of the fire and are best suited for larger schools, colleges, and universities.
Wireless fire alarm systems work in the same way as addressable fire alarm systems, except that instead of using wires and cables, the components of the system are connected wirelessly to the control panel.
Compared to wired systems, wireless systems are much easier to install and are suitable for educational institutions where extensive cabling is difficult either because of accessibility or due to aesthetics.
When choosing the best fire alarm solution for UK schools, there is not a “one size fits all” since the needs, requirements, and level of risk all vary depending on the type of educational institution and its size and location.
The best way to determine the best solution for your school’s needs is to conduct a fire risk assessment so that you are aware of the challenges faced and can come up with the best solutions to minimise or eliminate said challenges.
If you are unsure about which fire alarm solution is best for you, you can always consult with a professional security company such as Calder Electrical who will take the time to understand your requirements and recommend the best solution for them.
In the end, it is extremely important to have your fire alarm systems installed by professionals and also have them regularly serviced and inspected so that they can be relied upon to provide you and everyone in the building with maximum protection against fires.
Our experts have been working in the industry for over 40 years and can provide you with a comprehensive solution for your educational institution’s fire safety needs which include:
The proper installation of a fire alarm system is just as important as the quality of the system itself and is a complex task requiring expertise in the field.
We can survey your property and determine the best kind of system suitable for your needs and one that complies with the current standards and regulations.
We can then plan and install your system to high standards using only the best-quality equipment from our trusted suppliers.
We also offer after-sales care and an ongoing maintenance package after the installation to ensure your fire alarm works in optimal condition providing you with a system you can depend on and rely on.
Fire alarms must follow strict regulations and guidelines to keep them in good working order and the best way to stay compliant is to have them serviced regularly.
We have a vast understanding of the regulations in force and can provide you with a high level of service to keep your system healthy and working all the time.
According to the law, a fire alarm system must be maintained properly, and depending on certain factors, it can be up to three times per year.
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