A school needs to be a safe space, not just emotionally but physically, as well. Now, a fire hazard is an ever-present risk, and it’s something that you cannot dismiss even in an educational institution. Sure, the regulations regarding these institutions are stricter, but you still need to invest some extra effort in order to ensure safety. With that in mind, here are some tips on fire safety for schools and education facilities.
Evacuation plan and signs
First of all, when there’s a fire in an educational facility (or any facility, for that matter), it’s probably for the best if everyone gets to safety as quickly as possible. No one should play the hero since even the worst material damage is preferable to loss of life and injury.
This is why your first priority is an evacuation plan. A professional should make a good evacuation plan, and it should be displayed everywhere. Now, keep in mind that, at the moment of fire, no one is going to pause and study the evacuation plan. This is why you need signs posted everywhere. An exit sign is easy to follow. You need to have more than just one evacuation route; this will prevent a jam when everyone starts rushing out in panic.
It’s also important to designate an assembly point outside. This is incredibly helpful; in some scenarios, it is more efficient than the evacuation rate. After all, the majority of evacuation routes are quick, direct, and intuitive, which means that, as long as they know where they need to assemble, students shouldn’t have a problem following the route.
Make the school fire-resistant
With so many students there, it’s impossible to ever eliminate the chance of someone doing something reckless. Moreover, it doesn’t have to be a human factor that causes the problem. Educational institutions are usually huge edifices filled with appliances, generators, and devices, each of which could potentially malfunction.
Now, when this happens, you need to have enough time to respond, and the best way to do so is to use fire retardants and fire-resistant materials while designing the place. Once set in place, these provide some passive protection, which means that, even if every other method fails, you get an extra bit of time to respond.
The best thing about this is that it just… well, can’t fail. How? Because there’s nothing mechanical about it. There are no parts that can malfunction and no functions that can fail at a critical moment. A fire-resistant paint has fire-resistant properties. Usually, there are some gasses released as the paint starts burning, and this starts cooling down the walls in question.
Truth be told, the best way to do so is to start the construction with the right materials but even applying some in the aftermath is better than nothing. Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of having the right sprinkler system. This way, you’re automating your fire extinguishing responses, making them more dependable.
Fire alarm systems
First things first, you need to understand local and national fire safety codes and regulations before you can start picking a fire alarm for an educational institution. Conventional and addressable fire alarms are two major types that you’ll have to choose between. The needs of your school might dictate that you take one or the other.
The most important thing to consider is the detection technology. Here, there are also two types – smoke and heat detectors. Ideally, you would pick an alarm system that uses both of these detection methods. This way, the system is more reliable, and it’s less likely that you’ll miss something.
Ultimately, since this is the 21st century, you also want a fire alarm system to integrate with CCTV and access control systems. This way, you can avoid emergency lockdowns and ensure that everyone is notified right away.
It’s also important to understand that when choosing a supplier, you pick someone credible and reputable. They’ll have to supply you with spare parts, and they’re likely the ones doing service on the system.
Most importantly, you need to have a regular testing schedule. In some homes, fire alarms are tested twice per year; however, this is not enough for schools and educational systems. At least three to four tests per year are preferable. Also, if any work is done on these systems, you need to test them immediately.
Conduct regular fire drills
The biggest problem with drills is the fact that a lot of people just aren’t taking them seriously. Kids prefer doing drills to sitting in the class; however, don’t mistake this enthusiasm with any real attention. In other words, you need to find a way to make them pay attention, which is why you want to simulate realistic scenarios. This means activating fire alarm systems and trying to take things as seriously as possible.
It’s also important that you practice different evacuation routes. Why? Well, when a fire or a disaster strikes, you have no idea of knowing which routes would be blocked or dangerous. So, you want your students to have multiple options available.
One of the most important things you need to keep in mind is the fact that when the panic sets in, people only know how to act if it’s drilled into them. This way, they don’t have to think but can, instead, let their instincts kick in.
Bear in mind that you also need to evaluate your evacuation time. These drills are not done just because you have to fill a quota – you’re actually trying to accomplish something, and measuring evacuation time will help you figure out how close you got to this. To further improve your understanding of the process, you might want to follow up with a debriefing and some feedback collection.
The bottom line is that you need to start from the top. You need to do all that you can so that everyone is safe. This means making a great evacuation plan, marking all the exits, and vigorously drilling all the students. Other than this, you need to keep your fire alarms sharp (for early detection) and make the school fire-resistant so that you buy yourself some extra time. Anything else is a bonus but these four principles need to be the core of all your efforts.