In 2019 in England, there were over 40 fires per MONTH in schools. Following a comprehensive analysis of fire data from over 1,000 schools, it’s been found that schools are twice as likely to have fires than other non-residential properties.
In this blog, we’d like to help you understand the importance of fire detection and protection systems. In a later blog, we’ll discuss how a fire alarm is used to protect building users, but here we’re concentrating on property protection and operational continuity of your facility following a fire.
#1. Read and act on the recommendations in your Fire Risk Assessment (FRA)
At some point in recent history, your campus will have been surveyed and a report created to show all things that relate to the risk of fire. Here you’ll likely find guidance on storage of flammable substances, fire compartmentation, fire detection and more. There’s a lot to be learned from these reports; if you find it difficult to follow, invite the surveyor back to present their recommendations.
#2. Install an automatic fire detection system
This may sound silly, but there are different flavours of fire detection systems, not all automatically detect fire.
M = Manual
P = Property
L = Life
It’s likely you already have an L system (if you don’t, your FRA will almost certainly recommend one). An L system includes a mixture of automatic detection and manual alarm operation. Automatic devices are smoke and heat detectors, manual operation is triggered from red break-glass points (known as Manual Call Points – MCPs). For property protection, (P) automatic detection is required. The devices will detect smoke, heat and flames and automatically raise a local fire alarm (ringing the bells).
Learn more about different types of fire alarms here.
#3. Regular fire alarm testing
A fire alarm should be tested once per week. As we’ve already ascertained, fire alarms are not just for protecting lives, they’re also there to protect the property. If you lock up your campus for extended periods, ensure that the weekly tests continue. If an issue arises with the fire alarm during that period and a fire breaks out, the alarm may not activate.
#4. Remotely monitor your fire alarm
A standard fire alarm (no matter the flavour) will only ring the bells locally. Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) will remotely monitor and act on alarms. They will agree on a specific process of what to do following receipt of a fire event. One of the major benefits of using an ARC, is they act very quickly. If a fire event is real, the sooner the emergency services attend the site, the higher the chances that the building will be saved. Having an ARC also greatly improves life safety during occupied hours too.
#5. Close your fire doors when the buildings are locked
Put simply, fire doors stop fire spreading through a property as they create a fire-protected compartment. Even if your buildings have automatic fire door closers, keep them shut out of hours. If you find that some of your fire doors are propped/held open, please, please, please remove the object that is holding the door open and make everyone aware of the importance of the door.
It’s worth checking that your fire doors are being regularly maintained. At least an annual inspection should be carried out on your doors. The inspections will highlight faulty components and damage. If you’re not sure if your fire doors are being maintained, speak with your facilities management provider.
#6. Keep on top of fire alarm maintenance and upgrades
School holidays are a great opportunity to carry out noisy and obtrusive fire alarm upgrade works. Fire alarm components do not last forever. All fire alarm manufacturers will issue recommended replacement dates for their devices. Depending on the manufacturer, this could range from 7-15 years. Your fire alarm contractors should have an asset register of all devices on-site, ask them to enhance the list by providing a breakdown of the age and condition of all equipment. This will help you budget and sequence future system upgrades.
We hope some of these tips will help you on your journey to keep your buildings protected. If you’re unsure of any of the terminologies in the blog, or you’ve realised that you may have some issues that you need to speak with an expert about, we’re happy to help. Call 0345 459 2300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org