Back to school for fire safety education by Brian Sofley, Managing Director of ASSA ABLOY Door Group
Brian Sofley, discusses the issue of fire door safety in education buildings and why inspections are vital to ensure the safety of staff and students.
New Home Office figures have revealed that 219 primary and secondary schools were damaged by blazes in 2021/22, compared to 162 the year before – an increase of 35%. What’s more, six schools suffered damage to the whole building or more than two entire floors.
With the average school posing a fire risk 1.7 times greater than non-residential buildings, fire doors are one of the most essential safety features in an education building. Regular fire door inspections are necessary to ensure health and safety measures are met fully.
Doors in schools and universities are subject to extremely high levels of traffic, and subsequently a higher level of misuse and abuse, which can then lead to functional problems resulting in non-compliance.
An education building should be a safe and secure place for students and staff in which they are free to learn and work. While statutory inspections are completed for the entire building, the necessary attention to fire door compliance is often overlooked.
Our team of BRE-qualified engineers have found a large percentage of fire doors to be non-compliant when completing a dedicated fire door inspection in schools in recent years.
For example, in one school, 163 of the 164 fire doors we inspected were not fire compliant, posing a significant risk to both staff and students in the event of a fire.
Education buildings can present challenging requirements for fire doorsets, with exceptionally varied legislation and building regulations surrounding fire doors in schools.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires schools to undertake risk assessments to identify the general fire precautions needed to safeguard the safety of occupants in case of fire, including their safe means of escape.
Additionally, all schools are legally required to have a fire safety plan called a Fire Safety Risk Assessment (FSRA), to make sure a strategy is in place to reduce the likelihood of fire, maintain fire detection and alarm systems, and ensure staff and pupils are familiar with emergency evacuation plans.
It is also crucial that fire assessments are kept up to date, and fire precautions remain current and are reviewed when there are significant changes to the building.
Under the Regulatory Reform - Order Article 17, it is a legal requirement for the responsible person to ensure that fire-resisting doors and escape doors are correctly installed and adequately maintained. The British Standard documents recommend six-monthly inspections of fire doors.
The impact on students
A fire in an education building can cause financial hardship, a delay in learning, and emotional trauma for anyone involved. With most secondary schools accommodating in excess of 3000 students, schools face not only issues surrounding the well-being of the students, but the delay in education, with repairs to the building potentially lasting months.
Larger fires in secondary schools can cost on average, £2.8 million to repair, and in some cases, over £20 million. If you couple this with the posttraumatic effects that some students and staff may feel after the disaster, it is paramount that fire safety is a priority.
Help is on hand
With so many factors to consider, it can be challenging to ensure compliance not only at the installation or retrofit stage but also on an ongoing basis. However, help is available to those responsible for providing educational facilities to meet fire door safety regulations.
As part of its commitment to fire door safety, we provide a fully comprehensive inspection which can be carried out every three, four, six or 12 months to suit specific requirements.
Following inspections, we offer detailed reports containing advice and recommendations on necessary improvements, with the knowledge that identifying potential issues impacting safety and product performance can be lifesaving.
If any issues occur, a tailored repair proposal includes anything from replacement doors to a regular maintenance program. Door Group inspectors are BRE-certified and will ensure all fire doors are inspected to meet all necessary standards and regulations.
With regular and thorough inspections, we can ensure the compliance and performance of fire doorsets to improve overall fire safety in the educational environment while minimising the risk that a fire could negatively impact learning.
For more information on ASSA ABLOY Door Group, please visit https://bit.ly/3hVybbC