Blog, news & updates

A short guide to fire safety in schools

A short guide to fire safety in schools

Fire safety in schools should be a core focus of your health and safety training to ensure staff and students are safe at all times. With roughly 40 UK schools per month suffering from fires in 2019, ensuring that fire safety practices are addressed should be of the utmost importance to all schools across the UK.

With that said, it’s clear to see that fires in schools are not unusual. In fact, some common ways that fires start in schools are:

  • Arson (which accounted for 18% of school fires in 2018-19)
  • Faulty Equipment
  • Accumulation of rubbish
  • Smoking

Additionally, schools could be at a higher risk of injuries as a result of fires due to the number of teachers and pupils on-site at one time. 

However, if schools work towards compliance with current legislation and implement good fire safety practices, the chances of fires occurring or causing harm can be significantly reduced.

Fire safety regulations for schools

Although there are no specific regulations for schools surrounding fire safety, all schools must adhere to The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is designed to provide the minimum standards expected in non-domestic buildings. If the building is a workplace, then the Order designates the employer the Responsible Person (RP). The HSE states that employers in workplaces with more than 5 people must carry out fire risk assessments and keep them up to date. These safety risk assessments should identify what may cause a fire to start, substances within the building that could burn and anyone who may be at risk. As a result of the assessments, adequate fire safety measures should be in place. 

Who do these Regulations apply to?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to all different educational institutes, this includes: 

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

Building Bulletin 100: Design for fire safety in schools

The Building Bulletin 100: Design for fire safety in schools shows how to protect school buildings from fire damage and is relevant to building works being carried out on an existing school or the building of new schools. It covers design guidance, deterring arson, risk assessments, fire protection systems, fire detection and alarms, means of warning and escape, internal and external fire spread and more. 

"It brings together guidance on how to make schools even safer places for children to be in, with guidance on how to protect the continuity of their education." - Jim Knight, MP Minister of State for Schools and Learners.

Who is responsible for fire safety in schools?

This order states that any person who has some level of control in premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk of fire and make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire.

This is usually a fire marshal or responsible person who educates students and staff on the location of fire assembly points; evacuates students from the building during fire drills and checks the building to ensure no one has been left behind.

What are the key rules under the order?

  • Schools must carry out a fire risk assessment identifying any possible dangers and risk areas
  • They must also consider who may be especially at risk
  • Schools should get rid of or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably possible and provide general fire precautions to deal with any possible risk left
  • They should take other measures to make sure there is protection if flammable materials are used or stored
  • They should create a safety plan to deal with any emergency
  • Periodically review their findings

Best fire safety practice for schools

The main focus of fire safety in schools is to prevent a fire from occurring in the first place. The risk of a fire starting is reduced if the fire hazards are identified, and suitable control measures are put in place for your safety plan.

But what can these control measures include? Here are some of our top tips:

Carry out fire risk assessments and update them regularly

Fire risk assessments are essential for promoting fire safety in schools. They evaluate the chances of a fire occurring, whilst educating teachers and staff on how to avoid fires. 

Enforce a “No Smoking” policy on the school grounds

Cigarettes are a major risk factor for fires, so a no-smoking policy helps to eliminate this risk and keep students and staff safe.

Ensure fire doors are kept shut

Fire doors help to prevent the spread of fires should they occur. As a result, it’s crucial to keep fire doors shut at all times.

Have electrical equipment PAT tested regularly

PAT testing ensures that your electrical equipment is in good working order, thereby reducing the risk of fires in schools.

Ensure flammable substances are stored safely

School environments such as science labs and cleaning cupboards are likely to have flammable substances within them. Taking extra care to store these correctly will help to efficiently eliminate the risk of fires.

Regularly dispose of waste

Rubbish accumulation can increase the risk of fires occurring on the school premises, so it’s important that any waste is disposed of on a regular basis.

Make sure that furniture and fixtures are fire retardant

Fire retardant furniture and fixings prevent heat build-up and burn slowly, preventing fire development and stopping fires from spreading quickly in schools.

What fire safety training do school staff require?

The fire safety order states that:

The responsible person must ensure that his employees are provided with adequate safety training. [this must] (a) include suitable and sufficient instruction and training on the appropriate precautions and actions to be taken by the employee in order to safeguard himself and other relevant persons on the premises; (b) be repeated periodically where appropriate.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, Section 21

Due to the nature of staff responsibility within the Education sector, having sound Fire Safety Training is more important than ever. All staff are legally required to complete Fire Awareness Training under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 as well as the general duty of employee health and safety placed on employers in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

True Fire Safety means having adequate emergency procedures in place so that in the event of a fire, everyone knows what to do. It also means understanding what constitutes a fire risk within the working environment in question, as well as performing the correct risk assessments and taking sensible steps to mitigate avoidable fire hazards. 

In order to give Schools, Colleges, and other Educational institutes the tools they need to ensure they are doing everything they should be to keep their premises safe, we have designed two titles that cover fire safety in the education environment. As with our other Health & Safety programmes, these courses are delivered in an entirely online format and are suitable (and accessible) for all levels of staff and management.

How to carry out a fire drill in schools

It is crucial that all organisations know what to do if there is a fire on the premises. However, for schools, in particular, there is an added level of risk with potentially hundreds of students who may be vulnerable or confused about what they should be doing in the evacuation process. This can be a headache for staff when it comes to evacuating the building.

It is therefore essential that schools establish a clear and detailed evacuation plan that breaks down exactly what everyone should do in the event of a fire.

The best form of practice for this situation is for schools to carry out regular fire drills during school hours. This enables schools to check that their plans actually work, but just as importantly familiarises students and staff alike in the school's evacuation process.

Why are fire drills important?

Everyone on school premises must regularly take part in fire drills as it helps them to better remember the building’s escape routes and the instructions they need to follow. Additionally, students who may not understand the seriousness of fire safety must be made to understand that fire drills are a serious protocol.

The regular practice of fire drills should, in turn, mean that when it comes to an actual evacuation, everyone will be less confused about what to do and will know to behave sensibly.

What do fire drills require?

For a school to reap all the benefits of a fire drill, it is imperative that the school evaluates the entire evacuation process. This is so that they can identify issues with the procedure and take action where necessary - helping to keep the fire drill effective at all times.

Another thing schools have to take into consideration is designating specific fire safety responsibilities to certain staff. These include:

  • Designated Fire Wardens
  • Somebody to call the fire services

    And other responsibilities belong to ALL school staff, such as:
  • Keeping fire doors clear at all times
  • Informing students of protocol in the event of a fire

How often should fire drills be carried out?

Organisations must carry out fire drills at least once a year. But due to the increased risk, schools should carry them out once a term and at the start of each school year, as there will be new staff and pupils who will need to be familiarised with fire routes.

Both the headteacher and governing body of the premises have the responsibility to ensure that fire drills are carried out regularly and effectively.

Fire training for schools? What do I need to know?​​

iHasco offer a wide range of online fire safety training courses designed to promote fire safety in schools. These are specifically created for school staff and they’re included in our extensive library of online courses: Fire Awareness in Education Training.

Every member of staff legally requires some form of fire safety training and this online course is an effective and hassle-free way to ensure that your school is working towards compliance with current legislation, as well as providing an easily accessible record of staff training.

This course is CPD Accredited and IOSH Approved and can be completed in as little as 35 minutes before providing the user with a printable certificate upon completion.

Fire Safety in Education