Tilden Watson, Zurich Municipal’s Head of Education, said: “An alarming number of school buildings pose a high fire risk – yet many are poorly protected against a potential blaze. Unless Ministers bring England into line with other parts of the UK, where sprinklers are mandatory, large fires will continue to blight schools. This is harming children’s education and putting lives at risk.
“As well as protecting pupils, sprinklers drastically reduce the extent of damage when there is a blaze, often confining the fire to a single room. This gets children back into schools and classrooms quicker as well as saving taxpayers’ money.”
Nick Coombe, Protection Vice Chair and Building Safety Programme Lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “The case for sprinklers is compelling. Of almost 1,000 fires over five years in buildings where sprinklers were fitted, our research found they controlled or extinguished blazes in 99% of cases. We want to see a greater inclusion of Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS), including sprinklers, across the built environment. Sprinklers can dramatically reduce fire damage, making the reopening of a school much easier. This not only minimises the disruption to a pupil’s education, but also the impact on their family, the community and the wider education establishment.”
In June, Boris Johnson pledged £1bn to fund a decade long school rebuilding and repair programme and a further £560m in early August. Based on large fires alone, Zurich estimates that the repair for school fires could hit £320 million over 10 years – a significant portion of the government’s slated investment. Zurich wants the government to ring-fence some of its promised investment to improve the resilience of schools at high risk of fire. Insurers work closely with schools to help them manage their fire risks but the installation of sprinklers minimise the dangers from the outset.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) states that almost all types of premises – unless a single domestic dwelling – must be subject to a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. It is the duty of the ‘Responsible Person’ to take general fire precautions as far as reasonably practicable under the RRO Part 2 to ensure the premises is safe for all relevant persons and to reduce the risk of harm and prevent fire.
The ‘Relevant Persons’ are defined in the RRO Part 1 Article 2 as:
To summarise, a ‘Responsible Person’ could be the employer, owner, landlord or appointed managing agent of the premises. In some buildings there may be more than one Responsible Person.
How often should a fire risk assessment be undertaken/reviewed?The fire safety order 2005 states that if necessary, the ‘Responsible Person’ should seek safety assistance to assist when carrying out a risk assessment by appointing a competent person. The RRO Part 2 Article 18 defines a competent person providing safety assistance as an individual who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to assist in undertaking the preventative and protective measures.
In terms of undertaking/reviewing fire risk assessments there is often no prescriptive time frame, but the ‘Responsible Person’ should regularly review the document to ensure it remains up to date and relevant to the premises. If the fire risk assessment is no longer valid due to a significant change to the premises such as structural alterations, change of building use, increase in occupancy or use by a different group of people etc. then the risk of fire has changed and a review of the existing fire risk assessment is required with the changes made as appropriate.
It should be noted that a prescribed record of the fire risk assessment should be documented if:
The 4 types of fire risk assessmentThe RRO does not expand on how intrusive a fire safety risk assessment should be. When it comes to creating a fire risk assessment for residential properties only, there are 4 different ‘types’ defined as endorsed by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) ‘Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats’, issued by the Local Government Association in 2012.
It is important to stress, the above types ONLY apply to domestic dwellings and not commercial properties. If the existing compartmentation is insufficient and as a result people are at risk, the emergency plan for the premises should be reviewed by a competent person.
Director of BBFS.