Posted: 11/12/19 by Hospital Aids
Fire safety is critical on a school/college campus, but especially so for students with disabilities, who may need special attention or assistance when a fire occurs.
Since the implementation of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 the need for a formal evacuation plan, with equipment best suited for purpose has been brought to the top of the agenda for all fire, health & safety consultants.
The simplified message is that any person who has some level of control of premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire & ensure that everyone who may be on the premises at the time of the fire can escape safely. In a school setting the ‘Responsible Person’ would include the head teacher and governing bodies.
The key requirement for compliance is that a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment is carried out and appropriate steps to remove or reduce the risk of injury, due to fire, are taken. Emergency procedures should be pre-planned and that planning should have regard to the needs of all occupants. This is especially important in situations where there is sleeping in arrangements e.g. halls of residence.
Whilst this amounts to common sense, the legislation places more emphasis on paying particular attention to people who may need special help to reach a place of safety. Students with physical or mental disabilities should have a bespoke ‘escape plan’, known as a PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan), to ensure that they receive any assistance needed during an emergency evacuation.
An evacuation plan should not rely upon the intervention of the Fire and Rescue Service to make it work!
In some cases, specialist evacuation equipment will be required to enable the individual to safely move down fire escape stairs- especially in fire emergencies as elevators should not be used.
The options generally boil down to three main choices:-
- Evacuation on a mattress using either Evacuation Straps or Ski Sheets – stays in situ under the individual’s mattress, for use in halls of residence.
- Evacuation chairs – suited for use on staircases. Some chairs have specially designed stair tracks intended for use during evacuation, other chairs may be intended primarily as short distance transfer chairs.
- Evacuation Mats/Pads/ stretchers - which some users feel more comfortable using as an alternative to chairs for staircase evacuation.
These decisions will be strongly influenced by factors such as the age & design of the building concerned – modern architects have tended to place far more emphasis on designing for evacuation than their predecessors.
Once equipment has been sourced it is imperative that staff are adequately trained in its use to ensure all legal obligations are complied with.
It is worth noting that these requirements do not just affect educational facilities. The Fire Safety Regulations apply to virtually all premises and covers every type of building, structure and open space. This includes offices, shops, factories, pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels and even community halls and churches.
Premises that provide care such as hospitals, care homes and hospices are singled out as being a particularly high risk category for obvious reasons.
Failure to make full provisions for the safe evacuation of disabled people from the premises, may be viewed as discrimination and the ‘Responsible Person’ will be found accountable.
The local fire authority enforces the order and has the power to inspect premises, without prior notice, to check that the order is being complied with. If the premises is deemed to be unsatisfactory, an enforcement notice may be issued. Hefty fines/ lawsuits and closure can also occur for premises who fail to comply.