COVID-19 Fire Safety Advice for School Reopening
One of the many stories featured on the news about COVID-19 is that of when schools will reopen. Children of all ages have been away from school since March 20th unless their parents are key workers.
Now, with lockdown-easing measures in place, the government is keen to make sure children – especially those meant to be joining or finishing school – don’t miss any more important educational time. But what does reopening schools mean for fire safety? This month we’re providing advice on fire safety for schools intending to reopen.
How COVID-19 Has Impacted Schools
The impact of coronavirus on schools has been keenly felt by families across the country. While some schools may have closed their doors to pupils generally, some will still have been accommodating the children of key workers. On top of this, even if a school did not have any pupils, there will have been multiple areas of upkeep and maintenance required, including:
- Fire safety
- Gas safety
- Water system hygiene
- Kitchen equipment maintenance
- Security system maintenance
- Electrical equipment maintenance
- Ventilation arrangements
Fire Risk Assessments
All commercial, non-domestic properties require a fire risk assessment – to be reviewed each year, with a new one carried out every fourth year – to ensure that the premises are following fire safety legislation and doing everything possible to protect the building and those within it from fire. If a fire risk assessment was postponed for any reason, it is vitally important that a school have a new risk assessment performed before reopening.
In addition to the above, even where a fire risk assessment isn’t due currently, those in charge of the building may wish to have an assessment due to changes at the site. This can be because of a change in where pupils may have to be spread within the building, whether trained members of staff will be present and up to date with procedures or any other issues arising from the school reopening.
During the lockdown, one school in Derbyshire fell victim to fire during refurbishment works. Any works or changes being carried out within the building should be at the forefront of the mind when thinking about fire safety, something a fire risk assessment can help with.
As an important piece of fire fighting equipment, there are many things to think about in regards to fire extinguishers if you’re reopening your school. Firstly, have the units been kept in good condition? Routine maintenance is important for this equipment to ensure it can be used in the event of a fire. Whether it’s due or not, a check-up for extinguishers would be wise before opening a school if the building has been unoccupied or frequented less during the lockdown.
Secondly, do you have fire extinguishers in the best locations? If you’ve moved pupils and staff around the building to better adhere to social distancing guidelines, you may need to reconsider the placement of important fire safety equipment such as extinguishers. Likewise, you’ll need to ensure you have enough trained members of staff who would be capable of using an extinguisher should a fire occur.
With greater vigilance around the spreading of germs and the coronavirus on surfaces, the more tempted people might be to prop doors open. Fire doors are a common sight in many schools to help comply with fire safety standards, so it should go without saying that fire doors should not be propped or wedged open in any way. This would be dangerous should a fire break out, as it would leave evacuation routes vulnerable and allow the fire to spread more rapidly through a building.
Additionally, as with your fire extinguishers, fire doors are integral to fire safety and should be professionally checked and maintained regularly. Fire doors fall into the category of passive fire protection, but can still suffer from damage or deteriorate over time, something which should be addressed in any school planning to welcome back pupils.
City Fire Protection Working With Schools
At City Fire Protection, we work with a whole host of sectors to cover every aspect of fire safety. Schools, universities and colleges are all subject to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005, meaning these types of property must comply with fire safety laws. Our experienced team are available for fire risk assessments, maintenance of key equipment such as extinguishers and can help provide advice and guidance before you reopen your school.
Contact us today for more details on any of our services and we’ll be happy to speak to you about the challenges your school may face.