Fire drills are intended to ensure, by means of training and rehearsal that in the event of fire:
- The people who may be in danger act in a calm and orderly manner.
- Those people who may have designated responsibilities carry out their tasks to ensure the safety of all concerned.
- The escape routes are used in accordance with a predetermined and practised plan.
- Evacuation of the building is achieved in a speedily and orderly manner.
- To promote an attitude of mind where-by persons will react rationally when confronted with a fire or other emergency at school or elsewhere.
It is the responsibility of the headteacher and governing body of the premises to ensure that fire evacuation drills are carried out.
The dangers which may threaten persons if a fire breaks out depends on many different factors, consequently, it is not possible to construct a model procedure for action in the event of fire which would be suitable for use in all premises.
Each fire routine must be based upon a simple, efficient procedure which is specifically designed for the premises in which it has to operate.
Consideration must be given to the age of the pupils attending the school and as to whether there are any children with special needs.
It is therefore important that the following points listed below must be given prime consideration.
A fire routine it based on a critical sequence of events, these being:
- Alarm operation
- Calling the Fire Service
- Roll call
- Meeting the Fire Service
- Information the Fire Service will want to know
- Frequency of the fire evacuation drills
- School fire drill - instruction, training and recording
Anyone discovering an outbreak of fire must, without hesitation, sound the alarm by operating the nearest fire alarm call point.
Calling the Fire Service
All outbreaks of fire or any suspected fire, however small, should be reported immediately to the Fire Service by the quickest means available. This task could well be designated as the responsibility of the school secretary as a telephone will be readily available at that location.
- On hearing the fire alarm, pupils must be instructed to leave the building in single file and in a calm, orderly manner.
- The person in charge of each class must indicate the exit route to be used and everyone must be directed to a Predetermined Assembly Point.
- Specific arrangements must be made for pupils with physical or mental disabilities to ensure that they are assisted during evacuation.
- No running is to be permitted to avoid panic.
- On staircases everyone must descend in single file. Overtaking of classes or individuals must not be permitted.
- Lifts must not be used.
- Anyone who is not in class when the fire alarm sounds must go immediately to the assembly point.
- No one must be allowed to re-enter the building until told to do so by the Fire Service in attendance, OR, in the case of a fire evacuation drill the senior person in charge.
- An area outside the school premises must be designated as an assembly point.
- It must be clearly marked and easily identified by any person who must be expected to be in the school premises.
- The assembly point must be far enough away from the school premises to afford protection from the heat and smoke in a fire situation.
- The assembly point must be in a position that does not put pupils and staff at risk by emergency vehicles responding to the incident.
- One person should be nominated to have overall responsibility to ensure that a roll call is conducted in the event of evacuation of the premises.
- Immediately that classes have assembled at the assembly point, a roll or count must be made to ascertain that no one remains in the premises.
- Any visitors or contractors in the premises at that time must be included.
- The count at the assembly point must be checked with the attendance registers and visitors book to verify that everyone is out of the building.
- Attendance registers and visitors book should be held at a central point and must be brought to the assembly point when the alarm sounds.
- Each teacher must report to the nominated person in charge of the evacuation procedure to verify that everyone in their charge is accounted for or to inform him/her of the number of persons missing.
Meeting the service
The person in charge of the roll call must identify him/herself to the Fire Service on their arrival. In doing so vital information can be relayed to the Fire Officer which will dictate the necessary actions to be carried out by the Fire Service.
Information the Fire Service will want to know:
- Is everyone accounted for?
- If anyone is missing: How many? What is their usual location? Where were they last seen?
- Where is the fire? What is on fire? (It may not be apparent).
- Are there any hazardous substances involved in the fire or stored in the building? (i.e. Chemicals, Solvents, Liquified Petroleum Gas or Acetylene Cylinders etc).
Frequency of the fire evacuation drills
Fire evacuation drills should be held at least once per term, preferably at the commencement of each term.
- Each fire alarm point shall, where necessary, be clearly indicated "Fire Alarm" in accordance with the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations followed by the appropriate operating instructions.
- A notice should be displayed adjacent to the telephone or switchboard giving clear instructions for calling the Fire Service in case of fire.
- Notices should be displayed for staff detailing their actions in an emergency in conspicuous positions i.e. staff room.
- Any attempt to fight the fire must always be secondary to life safety.
- Circumstances will clearly dictate whether firefighting should be attempted.
- Any attempt to fight the fire must be based upon the type and degree of training received in the use of firefighting equipment employed in the premises.
- Regular fire drills will ensure that the evacuation procedure applying to a premises fulfils its aim satisfactorily and will highlight any area of the procedure which may need to be reviewed.
Multi building sites
- Many schools have more than one building on site. It is not necessary for the fire alarm systems within these buildings to be linked together.
- In the event of an alarm actuation, a procedure should be established whereby contact is made to the other buildings on site either by telephone or designated person.
- Once contact has been made, it will be usual procedure to evacuate all buildings (by operating the fire alarm, loudspeaker message or personally with each class).
- The aim of evacuating all buildings is to attempt to carry out a roll call. Operating procedures within some schools (mainly middle and high schools) may make it virtually impossible to say with any degree of certainty that "all persons are accounted for". In these cases, management may decide to operate a "Floor Warden" scheme. This delegates responsibility to members of staff to quickly search each floor (all rooms including toilets) and to report to the designated responsible persons that their floor is "clear". Where this procedures is in operation it is not necessary to evacuate all buildings.