Keep your school safe from fire

Keep your school safe from fire

Here you will find information about how to keep schools, and the people who attend and work at schools, safe from fire.

Keep your school safe from fire

The costs of a fire within a school can be significant. While financial costs may be great, the cost to the community can be even greater. It is for this reason that Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service works with schools to provide advice and guidance on how to protect students and staff from the potentially devastating effects of fire.

To keep students and staff safe from fire, it’s important that schools:

  • know how to keep themselves safe from fire
  • are informed about and comply with fire safety legislation
  • complete a fire risk assessment
All schools are different. They have different layouts and occupancies, and some schools may also have pupils and/or members of staff with special needs.

Therefore, each school must develop its own procedures for managing fire safety. When developing this, schools should give full consideration to all of the key issues presented on this page.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service is also available to provide further advice and assistance so please contact us.

Fire safety legislation

Here you will find information about how fire legislation applies to school premises.

For specific information regarding the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and how this applies to you, please visit our keep your business safe page.

Instruction, training & recording
During the first week of term, all new entrants should be conducted around the primary escape routes of the school and receive instruction on the school fire evacuation routine.

All members of staff should receive instruction and training in the event of any emergency, and should receive a personal copy of verbal instructions given by a competent person during each 12-month period. In the case of newly engaged staff, instruction should be given as soon as possible after appointment.

A record of training and instruction given, and fire drills held, should be entered into the log book and will include:
  • date of instruction or fire drill
  • duration of evacuation
  • name of person giving instruction
  • name of persons receiving instruction
  • nature of instruction or fire drill
Fire drills should be carried out at least once per term and should simulate a standard escape route, and an alternate should the primary escape route not be available. Each drill should be started by a pre-determined signal, and the whole premises checked for full evacuation.

A specific person should be responsible for organising staff training and nominate another person to co-ordinate the actions of staff in the event of a fire in larger premises. Effective arrangements should be made for a deputy to carry out the aforementioned in the absence of the nominated person.
Frequency of fire evacuation drills
Fire evacuation drills should be held at least once per term, preferably at the commencement thereof.
Supplementary notes

Notices

  • Each fire alarm point shall be clearly indicated in accordance with healthy and safety regulations, followed by the appropriate instructions. Click here for an example
  • A notice should be displayed adjacent to the telephone or switchboard giving clear instructions for calling the fire service in case of fire. Click here for an example
  • Notices should be displayed for staff detailing their actions in an emergency, for example, in the staff room. Click here for an example
Firefighting
Attempts to fight a fire must always be secondary to life safety, and circumstances will clearly dictate whether this should be attempted.

Any attempt to do so must be based on the type and degree of training received in the use of equipment on the premises.

Regular fire drills will ensure the evacuation procedure applying to premises fulfils its aim satisfactorily, and will highlight any area of the procedure which may need to be reviewed.
Multi-building sites
Where schools have more than one building on site, it is not necessary for the fire alarm systems to be linked. In the event of an alarm, procedure should be established whereby contact is made to other buildings either by telephone or designated person. Once contact has been made, it will be usual procedure to evacuate all buildings.

The aim of evacuating all buildings is to carry out a roll call, although operating procedures in some schools make it difficult to ascertain if all persons are definitely accounted for.

In these cases, management may decide to operate ‘floor warden’ schemes, delegating responsibility to members of staff to quickly search each floor and report to the designated responsible person that their floor is clear. Where this procedure is in operation, it is not necessary to evacuate all buildings.
The purpose of the fire drill
Fire drills are intended to ensure in the event of the fire:
  • people who may be in danger act in a calm and orderly manner
  • those with designated responsibilities carry out their tasks to ensure the safety of all concerned
  • the escape routes are used in accordance with a predetermined and practiced plan
  • evacuation of the building is achieved in a speedy and orderly manner
  • to promote an attitude of mind whereby persons will react rationally in the event of a fire or emergency, at school, or elsewhere
Fire drill routine

A fire routine should be based on a critical sequence of events, these being:

Alarm operation
Anyone discovering an outbreak of fire must, without hesitation, sound the alarm by operating the nearest fire alarm call point.

Calling the fire and rescue service
All outbreaks of fire, whether suspected or small, should be reported immediately by the quickest means available. This could be designated as the responsibility of the school secretary, as a telephone is available at that location.

Evacuation
On hearing the alarm, pupils must be instructed to leave the building in a calm, orderly manner in single file.

Teachers must indicate the exit route to be used, and everyone must be directed to the assembly point. For pupils with physical or mental disabilities, specific arrangements must be made to ensure they are assisted.

On staircases, everyone must descend in single file, overtaking of classes/individuals must not be permitted. Running and using lifts should also not be permitted.

Anyone not in class when the fire alarm sounds must go immediately to the assembly point and no-one must be allowed to re-enter until told to do so by the fire service in attendance, or in the case of a drill, the senior person in charge.

Assembly
The assembly point must be outside of school premises, clearly marked and easily identified by any person expected to be in the school. It should be far enough away to afford protection from heat and smoke, and in a position that does not put pupils or staff at risk by emergency vehicles responding.

Roll call
One person should be nominated to have overall responsibility in the event of an evacuation, ensuring a roll call is conducted immediately after classes have assembled to ascertain that no-one remains in the premises – including any visitors/contractors.

Attendance registers and visitors books should be held at a central point and brought to the assembly point when the alarm sounds.

The count at the assembly must be checked with the attendance registers and visitor book to verify everyone is out of the building, and each teacher must report to the nominated person in charge of evacuation to verify everyone is accounted for, or to inform them of missing people.

Meeting the service
The responsible person for roll call must identify themselves to the fire service upon arrival. In doing so, vital information can be related to the fire officer.

Typical information the fire service will want to know:

  • Is everyone accounted for?
  • If anyone is missing: How many? What is their usual location? Where were they last seen?
  • Where is the fire? What is on fire? (It may not be apparent)
  • Are there hazardous substances involved in the fire, or stored inside?