Headlines: November 12th, 2007

The Government has set out new design standards for schools as part of a package of measures to ensure they are safer and better protected from fire risks. There will be a new presumption that sprinkler systems will be fitted in almost all new school buildings.

‘Design for fire safety in schools’ has been published to help school designers and fire safety officers to take the necessary steps to ensure new buildings offer staff and pupils the highest level of protection. The design standards for fire safety will apply to refurbishment projects as well as new schools.

In addition to the policy to install sprinkler systems in new schools, which will mean all designs will have to include sprinklers unless it can be demonstrated there is a very low fire risk, schools will be expected to have regular fire drills and test alarm systems and evacuation plans.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said, “Fire safety must be central to the design of all new school buildings. This new guide shows how to protect school buildings from fire damage and will ensure that the schools we build or refurbish will be safer than ever before.” He added that he expected new school buildings to include sprinkler systems as a safeguard against school fires.

“School fires not only damage buildings and potentially put lives at risk but can have longer-term effects, including loss of coursework and disruption to classes. A major fire can disrupt children’s education and mean postponing tests and exams,” he added. The new guidance has been introduced even though the number of fires has gone down in recent years but Mr. Knight said he was concerned that 60 per cent of the fires that do occur are started deliberately.