The 1997 Fire Precautions (Workplace) regulations introduced specific safety precautions in schools. The NUT has produced practical advice for meeting the general requirements of the legislation (the full document can be found on www.support.synergy-interactive.co.uknuthandsindex.html).
The union emphasises that the purpose of fire precautions is to safeguard the lives of pupils, teachers and visitors. The first priority should be to raise the alarm and ensure that everyone is safely evacuated. Fire extinguishers should only be used to deal with small fires. If teachers are in any doubt about the seriousness of a situation, they should concentrate on evacuation. Escape routes should be clearly signposted. Alternative means of escapeshould be available in case fire blocks one particular route.
Regular fire drills should make staff and pupils aware of the correct procedures, and in particular about raising the alarm, escape routes and assembly points. These should take place at least once a term - and as soon as possible after the start of each term for new staff and pupils. Procedures are most effectively tested if no advance warning is given.
The timing is an important factor in the effectiveness of procedures. Fire drills at lunchtime or around 3pm will test how procedures work when the school is more likely to be crowded with parents. Occasionally, an exit or staircase should be restricted in order to make occupants aware of other escape routes.