Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Fire safety

Fire extinguisher

Members may be unaware of the serious consequences of the Fire Safety Order 2005 on schools and colleges. The order places the responsibility for fire safety on the manager of premises - that means the head or principal.

The order allows fire brigades to enforce precautionary notices or directions where it sees a disregard for fire safety. Failure in a range of areas is a criminal offence and if the brigade chooses it can instigate criminal proceedings. If a brigade has targets to meet or it believes that a school or college is particularly careless, it may well go down this route.

The personal consequences are serious. If the fault is one of building, then, provided that the person has brought the problem to the attention of the owners of the premises and taken reasonable steps to overcome the problem, there should be a defence. However, if the fault is one of operation - combustible materials in dangerous places or fire exits blocked, there may be no defence.

It is important that heads, principals and bursars ensure that the seriousness of this is brought home to premises staff, that it is made a disciplinary offence to fail to comply with fire regulations, and that regular checks are made. Fines are about £3,000.

Any ASCL member facing a fire brigade inspection should ensure that all is well. If any irregularity comes to light, members should call the hotline on 0116 299 1122 before any formal interview with the fire brigade takes place. No admission should be made without advice from headquarters. Acknowledge what is being said and agree to ensure that it is put right, providing your check shows it is so, but make no further comment at that time.

Your local fire service will have published a guide to the order which can be obtained from them or from their website.

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