The study highlighted a ‘perfect storm’ of risky buildings and poor fire detection and prevention measures, with 26,866 schools analysed and the average fire risk almost double that of non-residential buildings. It was found that many schools also lack the equipment needed to prevent small fires becoming major disasters1.
Inspections found that 66% of schools lack adequate fixed fire protection measures such as sprinklers, while 24% were rated ‘poor’ for fire detection. Additionally, firefighters have been called to nearly 2,000 school fires in the last three years. The leading causes of fires included malfunctioning appliances or equipment, faulty electrics, arson and kitchen fires.
The insurer and other organisations have called for sprinklers to be mandatory in English schools as part of the government’s £1bn school rebuilding programme.
Zurich gave a case study example of sprinklers saving a school in Wales from a fire caused by a laser-cutter catching fire.
The school’s sprinkler system quickly extinguished the fire and contained the damage to a single room – getting children back to school the following day, and helping to save rebuilding and repair costs.
Nick Coombe, protection vice chair and building safety programme lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council, commented: “The case for sprinklers is compelling. Of almost 1,000 fires over five years in buildings where sprinklers were fitted, our research found they controlled or extinguished blazes in 99% of cases”.
Aside from preventing injury and limiting structural damage, sprinklers can also pay for themselves in lower insurance premiums.
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