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Back to school safely with Fireco

Back to school safely with Fireco

The Government has made the decision that all schools will be reopening for the new term in September. Preparations and precautions will have already been put in place when the children of key workers were still attending school. However, with all students, staff and visitors returning in September a new risk assessment will need to be carried out to ensure everyone is in a safe environment

Places of education have a duty of care to students and will already use the Governments advice on Health and Safety. However, it is important that a specific Coronavirus Risk Assessment is completed. By doing this, Coronavirus hazards can be identified, measured and controlled.

There are different resources available for Coronavirus Risk Assessments, however, The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has created this template which can be used by all industries.

Fireco’s products have already been helping many businesses, hospitals and schools with their germ-control. Here are some of the hazards identified by HSE that Fireco can help with.

Ventilation

Buildings should have good ventilation and fresh air circulating throughout. Our hold-open devices allow you to legally and safely hold your doors open which will improve airflow. When the fire alarm is activated, the doors will automatically close. With colder weather approaching, it’s important to have other methods in place to ensure good ventilation throughout your school, as keeping the windows open won’t always be a suitable option.

Pinch points

High traffic areas in the school such as Reception, hallways, doorways, toilets, lifts, changing rooms, canteens, break rooms etc are going to need to be monitored. Our hold-open devices will allow you to keep your doors open, reducing the need to touch door handles, limiting the risk of cross-contamination. Our Smart Sanitising System, Germgard, can be installed by entry and exit points, which will promote the use of hand sanitiser before passing through.

Anxiety around Coronavirus

Being isolated from lockdown and social distancing can heighten feelings of anxiety about returning to normal activities such as attending school. Many students and staff members will need assurances and physical evidence that there are practices in place to maintain hygiene. Germgard is a clear and visual way to encourage good hygiene. A sensor will detect someone approaching and a screen with digital signage will prompt them to use hand sanitiser before entering. This system could be ideal for a reception area, break room, or delivery bay as staff and visitors passing through will use hand sanitiser before being allowed entry. Our hold-open devices can create a more open atmosphere and reduce the need to touch door handles, this could also be encouraging for people who are concerned about contaminated surfaces.

Inadequate hygiene

If people on the school premises are not keeping up good personal hygiene, they could easily cross-contaminate items they touch. Germgard is designed to promote good hygiene practices to building users through the use of hand sanitiser. It can also be integrated with access control and other systems to further reinforce sanitisation by only allowing entry once the sanitiser has been used.

Fireco can help keep schools fire-safe and COVID-secure. If you would like to know how we can help your school, contact us today on 01273 320650.

What has the Bolton student accommodation fire taught us?

What has the Bolton student accommodation fire taught us?

In November 2019 third-party student accommodation in Bolton known as ‘The Cube’ went up in flames. It took 40 fire engines and 9 hours for the fire service to get it under control and left 220 students with no belongings or place to live.

The University of Bolton, although not liable, re-homed all of the students affected, placing them in hotels, providing them with food and toiletries and giving each of them £500 cash to buy essential items. This cost the University around £1M.

The blaze has since raised issues about the safety of residents in third-party student accommodation.

Dangerous Cladding

The fire is thought to have been caused by a discarded cigarette, however, this is still under investigation. In the meantime, the biggest question being asked is why did the fire spread in a way that resembled the Grenfell tragedy.

Much research has been carried out on cladding used on high-rise buildings. Although the one used on The Cube (high-pressure laminate) was not the same type as the one used on Grenfell (aluminium composite material), it is still classed as a flammable material.

Fire alarms ignored by students

The Manchester Evening News interviewed some of the students who had fled the building and found that many of them didn’t respond when the fire alarms went off.

“I was just sitting there, hanging about and not really doing anything. Then someone knocked on my door.”

“The fire alarm was going off but nobody was paying any attention. It goes off all the time, maybe every hour during the day because someone has done something in the kitchen and it’s set off the alarm.

“if it had gone up in the middle of the night everyone would have slept through the alarm. We have slept through them before when there were non-emergencies.”

Bolton University Students

Universities urged to review fire safety

Whilst the causes and spread of the fire were being uncovered and investigated, Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, wrote to all universities urging them to review their own and their third-party providers fire safety procedures. This came after Union Leaders wrote to him raising concerns for students’ health and safety.

What can Universities and their providers do in order to be compliant and increase the safety of students?

Union Leaders proposed to Gavin Williamson that the following actions should be taken:

  • Remove dangerous and flammable cladding on educational buildings.
  • Carefully consider the use of building materials on all new builds and avoid the use of cladding known to be dangerous.
  • Fit sprinklers in new accommodation and educational buildings.
  • Review of all educational buildings to establish if standards are being met.

Other actions that can be taken include:

  • Arrange for a fire risk assessment to be carried out by a professional body so that all risks can be identified and eliminated.
  • Put in place systems that can ensure the safety of all students like Fireco’s Deafgard or Digital Messaging System.
  • Carry out regular fire drills and evacuations with students so they are prepared if a fire does occur.
  • Teach students basic fire safety awareness, for example, common causes of fires and preventative measures and how to use provided fire equipment.

Fireco is here to make compliance easy. If you need help with fire safety in your university or accommodation facility, contact us today on 01273 320650.

Upgrade your fire safety and reduce your maintenance

*Photo credit @Manchesterfire on Twitter

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Fireco introduces Compliance as a Service

Fireco introduces Compliance as a Service

We are pleased to announce Compliance as a Service (CaaS). A new service option available for Digital Messaging Service and Dorgard SmartSound.

We understand that in some sectors such as education and care homes, it can be difficult to get approval on larger payments and raise capital expenditure. Although our products will improve the daily running of the business, they may not be considered as an ‘essential’. Compliance as a Service will make our fire safety systems more accessible to businesses that experience budget restraints.

CaaS is a service through subscription, your company will receive the product range with added benefits including surveys, installation, maintenance, technical support and product replacement in the event of accidental damage. The subscription allows payment to fall into your business’ operational budget.

“Finding even a relatively small amount of capital can be difficult in this current climate, many people I speak to on a daily basis find themselves with a requirement for our products but have their hands tied by being unable to pay for everything upfront. I’m really excited that we have launched CaaS as it gives people the ability to improve compliance in their building with more budget-friendly monthly payments.” 
Chris Russell- Education Sales Manager

If you would like more information about CaaS then please contact us on 01273 320650 or email us at contact@fireco.uk.

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How to minimise the risk of arson in schools

How to minimise the risk of arson in schools

Arson is a criminal act which can lead to devastating consequences. Arson in schools is more common than some may think. In the UK there is an estimate of between 1400-1800 school fires each year, with 75% of these thought to be caused on purpose*.

It is important that there is a clear understanding on who is responsible for the risk management of fire on the school premises. This could include; school governors, head teachers, the caretaker, the premises manager and Local Education Authority. Once the relevant people have been identified, responsibilities can be delegated and a fire action plan can be put in place.

All schools should have a fire action plan that includes instructions on assessment, prevention and recovery. It may even be beneficial to have a visit from a professional external body who can carry out an official assessment on the school.

Here are some key points to consider as part of your action plan:

Deter and prevent unauthorised entry onto the site

The Arson Prevention Bureau has found most cases of arson take place outside of school hours with 11pm being peak time**. This could be because the perpetrator will feel as though there is less risk of them being caught out as they may not be seen. There are lots of ways you can deter and prevent unauthorised access to the school property:

  • Staff living on site or next to the school means there is a constant monitor on the premises.
  • External doors and windows should have a thief resistant locking system.
  • Intruder alarms should be fitted, and all appropriate people should receive notification in the event of an emergency, including the security providers.
  • Liaising with neighbours and local schemes such as Neighbourhood watch.
  • CCTV should be fitted near all entrance points, plus hidden areas of the premises.
  • There should be an end of day procedure to ensure all exits are closed, locked and alarms are set.

Reduce the opportunity for a fire to be started

Good maintenance should be kept on site so that there are minimal things that can be used to set fire to or ignite a fire with.

  • All rubbish/ recycling bins should be stored in a secure location at least 8 metres away from the building. They should all be kept in a container made from fire resistant materials and locked. Other storage areas such as sheds should also be kept at least 8 metres away from the building to prevent spread.
  • All pipework should be hidden or protected.
  • Electric and gas metres should be in a secure environment.
  • Any mobile buildings should be filled at the bottom to avoid a fire being started underneath.
  • The school and immediate surrounding areas should be checked regularly to ensure there is nothing that could be used to start a fire.

Reduce the extent of potential fire damage

An uncontrolled fire can lead to devastating damage for the school. For example, losing school records, artefacts, notes, pupil exam work and certificates that have all been collected for many years. If a fire were to break out there needs to be a plan to minimise damage:

  • Install an automatic fire detection system.
  • Compartmentation (the building is built in different fire-resistant compartments).
  • Install and regularly check fire safety equipment e.g. fire doors, sprinkler systems and extinguishers.
  • Keep all property of high value in a secure location where the contents will be protected and can be retrieved.
  • All staff should be fire trained, there should be appointed fire marshals, and there should be someone responsible for checking all fire safety in the building.

It is important to consider these points to ensure that your school building, its content and its people are safe from the risk of arson. If these points are put into action, it could help to reduce the overall amount of school fires and prevent the devastating damage that a fire can cause.

*https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/LFW01/LFW01.pdf

**www.firesafe.org.uk

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Why do students wedge open fire doors?

Why do students wedge open fire doors?

Universities and halls of residence have a higher than normal risk of fire. With 80% of students admitting to regularly taking part in activities that risk fire in their accommodation*. One element of fire safety that often seems to be considered as more of a hindrance than help, are fire doors.

Fire doors are a vital part of fire safety, especially for places of multiple occupancy. They compartmentalise a room by trapping a fire for 30-60 minutes. This allows more time for the fire service to reach the fire and extinguish it before it spreads through the whole building. If the fire doors in university halls are wedged open, a fire will spread extremely quickly, putting lives at risk and causing damage to housing.

So why do students wedge open fire doors?

Social reasons- Students have left home for the first time and will want to meet as many people as possible, especially the ones in their living area. An ‘open door policy’ may be applied so that they seem more welcoming to new friends. If every door in their flat is going to close automatically, the students will wedge them open.

Practical purposes- Especially on moving in day, students will want ease of access to their room in order to move everything in. Some fire officers will allow a temporary wedging to help with this. However, students may feel this to be more convenient than their door being closed, so are likely to continue using a wedge.

To reduce noise- There is a lot of human traffic going through university halls, meaning that the fire doors will be closing regularly. Fire doors are very heavy and some door closers cause them to slam shut. Consequently, leading to students wedging them open to minimise noise.

To improve access- Heavy fire doors with automatic door closers can be problematic for people with mobility issues. This may lead to doors being wedged open for ease of access around their flat.

May be unaware- Students have been living in a home environment where fire safety may not be a concern and fire doors may not have been around. Because of this students might not realise the important role that fire doors have.

Influence of alcohol- Throughout university, and especially freshers week, there will be many parties and nights out- usually with drinking involved. This can be where risky behaviour is increased. For example, 50% of students admit to cooking whilst under the influence*, also known as ‘drunk frying’. Along with this comes drying clothes on electric heaters and smoking inside.

On top of this, students may also take batteries from fire alarms, and disable door closers by damaging them.

In October 2015, a fire spread through university accommodation in Bristol. The fire was started by an unattended pan of oil left on a stove and it got so severe that all students in the building had to be evacuated. After the fire had been controlled, the building had been deemed unsafe to live, meaning over 100 students were rehomed. No students were harmed from this incident because all the fire alarms went off and everyone evacuated.

The video also shows the massive role that fire doors play. You can see that the fire door on one side is completely damaged by the fire and one side is still mostly intact. This is a demonstration of how fire doors compartmentalise a building and help trap a fire to reduce or slow spread.

A students priorities are not always in line with fire safety strategies. Students feel in their daily lives that they need to use wedges under their doors because they have no other option. However, there are safer ways to hold open doors. Hold-open devices and free swing door closers can be applied in order to improve access and ventilation, whilst complying with regulations and keeping the building fire safe.

*https://web.zurich.co.uk/municipal/products-and-services/your-sector/further-and-higher-education/student-fires

**Video https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-34513810

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Are you the “Responsible Person” for fire safety?

Are you the “Responsible Person” for fire safety?

What is a “Responsible Person”?

The Responsible Person is ultimately the person who has legal responsibility for the fire safety in the building. It is highly important that all companies have an appointed Responsible Person, as they are in charge of overseeing the safety of everyone in the business. If they are not ensuring that their company is taking sufficient action for fire safety, they can be fined or sent to prison for not meeting regulations. It is common for there to be more than one Responsible Person for a building. For example, if you work in an office block where there are different businesses on each floor, there should be a Responsible Person for each separate business. In this case, the Responsible Person from each company will need to communicate about fire safety concerning the whole building.

How can you find out who the Responsible Person is for your premises?

The Responsible Person is usually the person who is in control of a building or business. For example, in a workplace it could be the owner of the company. In a property, it could be the landlord or the managing agent. If you are unsure who the Responsible Person is, you should contact the owner or manager of the business/property. If you are the owner of the business or building, then it is likely that you are the Responsible Person.

What are the duties of the Responsible Person?

  • Carrying out and reviewing risk assessments on a regular basis and recording all findings.
  • Ensuring that any risks that have been identified and resolved have been shared with other members of staff or occupiers.
  • Communicating with other Responsible Persons for the building.
  • Preparing a plan to follow in the case of emergency.
  • Putting in place fire safety measures and precautions and ensure these are maintained.
  • Providing fire safety information and instructions to other people in the building.
  • If in a workplace, ensuring fire safety training is carried out by staff on a regular basis.

If the Responsible Person is unsure about any aspects of their role they can hire a fire safety expert, who can offer advice and carry out risk assessments.

What is the difference between a Responsible Person and a Fire Warden?

The Responsible Person has a legal responsibility to oversee fire safety for the whole business. However, some of these duties can be delegated on to the Fire Wardens. Fire Wardens assist the Responsible Person in emergency procedure planning and fire prevention. Not only this, the Fire Warden will also be in charge of helping people evacuate during a fire drill. For more in depth information about the role of a Fire Warden, click here.

 

Source: https://www.gov.uk/workplace-fire-safety-your-responsibilities

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Schools will be welcoming back all staff and students for the new term in September. Is your school COVID-secure? Fireco can help with your Coronavirus risk assessment.

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