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Fire safety in schools – what the regulations say

Wherever there are groups of vulnerable people in a building, fire doors are of prime importance providing both a means of escape and a way to delay the spread of smoke and fire from one area of the building to another. There are fire safety regulations for both new and existing school buildings, both of which deal exhaustively with the role of fire doors in the school environment.

Regulations for existing buildings

Schools are required to undertake risk assessments to ensure that pupils, students and staff are aware of the importance of fire safety, including making sure that school fire doors aren’t wedged open to prevent them fulfilling their primary functions of stopping the passage of smoke and fire and providing an escape route.

High-risk areas like catering facilities should be separated from the rest of the school by thirty-minute resistant fire doors, while standard school doors are suitable for long corridors so long as they’re capable of restricting the passage of smoke. Government recommendations also include training for pupils and staff alike in the importance of keeping fire doors unobstructed and the use of automatic hold-open devices that allow school fire doors to swing shut once a fire alarm is activated.

Focus on new premises

Building work at all new schools must conform to Building Bulletin 100: design for fire safety in schools which has a section of information dedicated to school fire doors. The regulations recommend that fire doors have vision panels to assist movement around the school and to accurately assess whether a door is containing smoke and fire.

There are detailed design requirements and standards for fire doors in new school designs, which standardise specifications, installation and maintenance. These regulations build on those for existing school buildings, specifying ISO 9002 as a minimum standard.

The importance of fire doors

While school doors can provide adequate protection in some scenarios, the importance of properly installed and rated fire doors can’t be overstated. All fire doors should be checked for gaps, while seals should be unbroken and hinges in good working order. If a fire door doesn’t close independently then it needs quick attention as it is no longer effective. Keeping your fire doors well maintained may one day turn out to be a lifesaver.

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