Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO), schools have a responsibility to protect their pupils and staff from the risk of fire.
The RRO simplifies guidance for schools on how to remain compliant with fire safety legislation and thereby prove that they have taken effective precautions to preserve life and property in the event of a fire.
In this article, we will explore the fire safety requirements for schools as set out in the RRO and other relevant legislation, and outline the steps that schools should take to ensure the safety of their students and members of staff.
Picking The Responsible Person(s)
Under the RRO, responsibility for all fire-related duties on site is allocated to the Responsible Person(s).
This includes carrying out regular Fire Risk Assessments, effectively implementing any required changes as identified by the Fire Risk Assessments, and sourcing a competent individual to install and maintain fire detection and alarm systems.
The Responsible Person(s) in a school may be the headteacher, governing body, and/or allocated Fire Safety Warden. The Responsible Person(s) must assume all responsibility for all fire safety duties and can be subject to legal repercussions if the relevant legislation is not effectively followed.
Under the RRO, the Responsible Person(s) must:
- Regularly review fire risk assessments and arrange a drill at least once per year, with an external fire risk assessment occurring once every five years
- Follow appropriate fire precautions to ensure the safety of students, staff, school visitors, and the school premises
- Plan, organise, control, monitor, and review all the fire prevention and protection measures in place
- Enact measures to manage any fire safety risks that are identified in the fire risk assessments
- Ensure that appropriate fire detection, alarm, and firefighting systems are in place
- Put emergency measures in place to manage the fire risk from dangerous substances
- Ensure that fire safety equipment is accessible and signposted effectively
- Ensure that fire safety procedures are followed in the event of a fire
- Provide fire safety training and information to employees
- Provide fire safety information to students and visitors
- Manage risks from dangerous substances and equipment
- Designate fire safety roles for staff members
- Prevent obstructions to emergency exits
- Enforce compliance with the RRO
The Consequences Of Violating The RRO
If your school fails to comply with the RRO, you may be putting the lives of your students and staff at risk.
And if your school suffers any fire damage to its buildings, it can cost you hundreds of thousands of pounds in repair fees, while several areas of the site may need to be closed until the necessary refurbishments are complete.
In addition, local fire and rescue services regularly carry out inspections of local schools, where they will check your fire risk assessment and fire prevention methods, and issue notices, fines, or penalties if your school is deemed non-compliant with the RRO.
These can include:
• Alterations Notices - A formal notice that highlights significant fire safety risks
• Enforcement Notices - A formal notice that addresses serious fire safety risks which have been overlooked and are not being properly managed. This notice will include required amendments that must be carried out by a designated deadline
• Prohibition Notice - A formal notice that is issued when your school is in severe violation of the RRO. This notice prohibits admittance to the school premises with immediate effect, and can involve strict penalties being enforced for breaches of the RRO
• Penalties - If your school is in breach of the RRO, you may incur penalties - such as a fine of up to £5,000 for minor offences, or unlimited fines for serious breaches. In severe cases, the Responsible Person(s) may also incur a prison sentence of up to two years
Conducting Regular Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs)
Under the RRO, schools are required to review their FRA and carry out a drill at least once per year, or whenever there are significant changes to the school premises that may affect fire risks – like for example, building works. Schools are also required to arrange an external fire risk assessment once every five years.
The governments of England and Wales have issued a guide for educators on how to carry out an effective risk assessment.
You can access the full information here, but in short, the FRA must include a full check of all fire safety measures (such as detection and alarm systems, sprinklers, extinguishers, and fire doors), and should consider the risk fire poses to staff and pupils - especially vulnerable groups such as the very young.
Then, if any new fire risks are identified when the FRA undergoes review, the Responsible Person(s) must put measures in place to manage these risks effectively.
Understanding School Fire Evacuation Plans And PEEPs
Schools should have a general School Evacuation Plan in place, as well as Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for staff and students with disabilities.
PEEPs must include how the affected individual should be assisted in the event of a fire, and they can be temporary or permanent depending on the individual’s disability or impairment. For example, a student with a broken leg may require a temporary PEEP for six weeks, whereas a student with a hearing impairment may require a permanent PEEP.
Schools should also consider the effects that a fire alarm may have on people with sound sensitivities – like autism, for example – as these can cause difficulties during an evacuation.
If necessary, staff should undergo training to help them assist people with sensory issues to evacuate the building safely. Schools should also consider investing in equipment – such as evacuation chairs - that will help staff and students with mobility issues to evacuate the premises quicker.
Keeping Comprehensive Fire Safety Records
It is best practice to keep a fire safety logbook on your school site that contains the details of any testing, training, and installation or servicing of your fire equipment and evacuation protocols that takes place.
This logbook should be kept accurate and up to date at all times, as you may be required to share the information with the relevant authorities to demonstrate your compliance.
Want to ensure your school stays compliant with fire safety regulations and is well protected against security risks? Contact our expert team!