Will you be prepared for action when schools partially reopen in June?
During the last few weeks there have been many changes to the school occupancy numbers, both with staffing levels and pupil attendance, which is very soon going to change again. It is important that all aspects of health and safety management are maintained through the changes that are about to happen, which includes reviewing your fire evacuation procedures and fire management plan.
Current UK Government guidance states that you "MUST review and if necessary, update your fire management plans and ensure any changes to fire escape routes are clearly identified and communicated". Department of Education, 18th May 2020.
During the reduced occupancy periods, all regular inspections and testing of your fire alarm systems, call points and emergency lighting should still have been undertaken along with fire door checks. If the school has been closed during the last few weeks, all of these inspections must be carried out before the school reopens.
What risks may change when school reopens?
This depends on how you are planning to relocate the pupils in your school and how you control your staff rota. Here are some of the points that you need to consider:
How many classrooms will you be using and how many pupils will be located in new classrooms?
Will you have any main corridor routes isolated due to the social distancing rules?
Will staff be located in a different classroom to normal?
Will you have one adult in a classroom (rather than 2)?
Will you still have other children in the school that have been attending since lockdown began - are they going to remain in their current bubble group?
Will you have any other children in school that are not part of your usual registration?
Will there be a staggered entry/departure time for both staff and pupils?
Will there only be one person located in the school office?
Will you be returning your attendance registers to the school office at the same time as usual?
Will you expect pupils to line up at the assembly point in their usual class groups (albeit in a social distancing way) or will they need to line up in the bubble group?
Will you be prepared for an evacuation?
With all of the above points to consider, there is also the action that needs to be taken in the event of a fire alarm activation. You may currently have a suitable number of fire wardens trained in your school for 'Normal' circumstances and they will have a good idea of what they would be expected to do. But will these people be in during all school hours as you move through June?
There are several roles that need to be carried out during the evacuation process including getting everyone out and accounted for, checking the fire panel, checking the location of alarm activation, isolating the panel when safe and communicating with fire brigade if necessary. Remember to update any PEEPS if individual circumstances have changed too.
When you have assessed all of the above points, remember to discuss this with your staff. Make sure that you will always have sufficient number of personnel in school who can take responsibility in an emergency evacuation situation (i.e a Senior member of staff). Ensure that every member of staff has received clear instructions on their own actions to take as well as the school contingency plan - which may vary on a day to day basis for the coming weeks. Carry out a drill as soon as you can, once school has returned. Younger children may be very confused if their evacuation procedures have changed since they were last in school, particularly if they are unsure where to line up at the assembly point or who they follow to the assembly point. Include any special arrangements during lunchtime.
Fire Warden in Schools training course - 2nd June 2020
This is a good time to review your Fire Warden training needs. Even if staff have attended previous training, this new course has been designed to include fire management planning during the current Covid-19 circumstances and partial return in June. It would be appropriate for any member of SLT, office staff and TA's. If you are unsure about any aspect of planning your evacuation procedures, this course will provide confidence and clarity for different scenarios that may crop up.
For more information on training click here.
21st May 2020
Adele Partridge CMIOSH, MIFSM