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Last updated: 25.06.19

How to minimise the risk of fires in schools

Fire safety is important in any workplace. But with kitchens and hazardous materials regularly in use, and large numbers of staff and pupils to protect, fire safety is an important duty in a school.

Unfortunately fires in schools are not unusual. Here we have listed several common ways in which a fire could start. Do you recognise any of them as areas that need addressing in your school?  

  • Faulty or unsafe use of equipment – Equipment that could cause fires, such as heaters, lighting equipment and some kitchen equipment, are used in many different areas of a school, and if they are faulty or are used in an unsafe manner, the risk of fire is a lot greater.  
  • Smoking – Unsafe disposal of cigarettes or matches often result in fires
  • Rubbish accumulation – Schools can accumulate a lot of waste, which is often stored unsafely or not disposed of regularly. This is a major fire hazard.
  • Specific hazards – Schools can house specialist equipment or substances, such as Bunsen burners for science lessons, and when these are not used or secured safely, they can become fire hazards.
  • Arson – Research shows that 60% of fires in school are deliberate. 

So, how can you reduce the risk of fires? Fortunately, there are steps you can take.

Eight ways to reduce the risk of fires in schools

  • Dispose of waste regularly – As mentioned above, waste is a flammable substance and is often the cause of fires. Storing waste bins and wheelie bins in compounds away from the building and disposing of it regularly will reduce the risk.
  • Be strict on smoking – Ensure that there is a ‘No Smoking’ policy in the school that everyone (this includes staff, parents, visitors, students – everyone) must adhere to, and make sure that students are educated about the fire risks.
  • Store flammable substances safely – Subjects such as chemistry can include flammable substances or equipment which could cause a fire. Make sure they are stored safely in ‘flammables’ cabinets and keep them locked when not in use.
  • Make sure that furniture and fixtures are fire retardant – Furniture and fixtures can help exacerbate a fire, so choosing fire retardant ones can reduce the risk of fire.
  • Test electrical equipment – Schools often use large pieces of electrical equipment in drama classes, school plays or assemblies. Make sure that they regularly have a PAT test, as faulty electrical equipment can cause fires. It is also worthwhile unplugging equipment at night, where appropriate.
  • Always keep fire doors shut – Fire doors can keep a fire at bay for up to an hour, but only if the doors are used correctly – keep them shut.
  • Provide fire safety training – Ensure that all staff and students know the ins and outs of fire safety – the causes, what to do in event of a fire, and so on – and carry out regular fire drills. This increases everyone’s awareness regarding fire safety, which not only reduces the risk of fire, but also ensures the safety of everyone in an event of a fire. 
  • Carry out fire risk assessments – Every school must complete one and they must be updated regularly. They will help identify what precautions are needed to prevent fire risks in your school, and what to do if a fire does break out.

How to reduce the risk of arson

It cannot be ignored that arson causes a huge percentage of school fires. Many of these may be a joke that went out of control, but it is always worth considering how arson attacks can be prevented.

Here are steps to take to reduce the risk and effect of arson

  • Deter and prevent unauthorised entry onto the site or into the building – Effective perimeter fencing, and keeping windows locked and secure will help deter and prevent access into the building. 
  • Remove combustible items on site which could be used – Arsonists rarely bring their own flammable materials on to the site, and instead use materials they find. Therefore, it is important to store potential items securely or make sure to prevent access to them. This is another reason why it is important to keep waste stored securely and disposed of regularly.

  • Reduce the risk of fire damage – When the building is closed, make sure that all moves have been made to make it safe in case of a fire; for example, closing the doors at night will contain the smoke and fire in one space, or at least slow down the rate the fire spreads.

Our fire safety training course is just one of many health and safety courses we provide. If you are looking to train your staff on fire safety, our course will cover all your needs, or contact us if you would like to know more at hello@virtual-college.co.uk.