Protect your school from getting burnt

  • School holidays tend to see a rise in significant losses for education establishments especially relating to fire and arson attacks
  • This is particularly the case at the end of the summer holidays and the first week of the autumn term

Arson and fire remain a key risk in the lead up to the autumn term.

School fires in one area increased by 34% in 2017 and the Glasgow School of Art suffered its second devasting fire in four years which required more than 120 firefighters and 20 appliances to tackle the blaze.

School holidays tend to see a rise in significant losses for education establishments especially relating to fire and arson attacks. This is particularly the case at the end of the summer holidays and the first week of the autumn term.

Tips for managing fire and arson

It is essential that adequate measures are taken to combat these potential losses and minimise any disruption to the start of the new term.

The good news is that a few simple steps is all that it takes to protect your property:

1. Increase vigilance

With the summer holidays drawing to a close, many teachers prepare for the forthcoming academic year on school premises. Caretakers also tend to be around ensuring the grounds are all maintained.

Simple measures, such as getting teachers and caretakers to increase vigilance on the schools’ grounds, switch off any electrical appliances after use and lock-up the building securely, are an important part of protecting your school and preventing incidents from happening in the first instance.

Look out for signs of malicious damage on site and signs that unauthorised people have been using the site, such as the construction of timber ramps and jumps for boards and bikes.

Ask your local Police liaison officer to arrange for increased patrols.

2. Keep your property secure

A zero-tolerance towards unauthorised people on site should be applied.

Carry out checks to ensure fencing is intact, with no holes or footholds evident. It’s worth checking gates are fitted with suitable locks and that bolts, hinges and handles do not act as easy footholds/scaling points.

Ensure intruder alarms systems and all other security measures are put into operation and make sure the responsibility for doing so is actively agreed.

School buildings are often open for staff access but without reception areas being supervised. Occasionally teachers will also be in training sessions leaving the school site open but large parts of the buildings empty. It is important that staff are reminded to keep all external doors and windows to unattended areas secured whilst inside the buildings so intruders are unable to walk in without being detected.

If you have any deliveries for computer or other theft attractive equipment be careful how you dispose of the packing; not only can this provide a means for starting a fire but it is also an obvious advertisement of new contents.

3. Combustible waste

There is a potential for the amount of combustible waste to increase at this time of year due to packaging following the delivery of new educational resources and staff clearing out rooms in preparation for the new academic year. It is important that any combustible waste is not left near to the buildings but disposed of via secure waste bins and compounds which should be sited at least eight metres from the buildings. This is a relatively easy and inexpensive problem to fix. Please refer to your Risk & Insurance Consultant or Underwriter if you are aware of any bin stores at your school that don’t meet this recommendation.

4. Make the most of CCTV surveillance

Good security measures can help deter and prevent break-ins and acts of vandalism or arson. If you’ve got a CCTV system see if you can arrange for remote monitoring that is able to summon an immediate response should an incident take place.

5. Work closely with contractors

Remember to perform routine inspections of ongoing works. Monitor contractors on site to ensure they are following arrangements and not leaving skips and bins against the buildings.

Make sure contractors leave their work area in a safe and secure condition at the end of each day. Once finished, carry out an inspection with the contractor to ensure the work has been completed satisfactorily and that all waste materials have been cleared away.

6. Carry out health and safety inspections

It’s the perfect time to inspect your fire extinguishers, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and ensure safe storage of flammable liquids and waste control. Often fire alarms and sprinklers get disabled by contractors or visitors during the summer break – it’s worth checking these are fully functioning.

Helping you manage the risks

The impact of a fire or an arson attack cannot be underestimated. Make time today to take these simple steps and protect your school.