On hearing the fire alarm during the night on a residential school visit in the south east, the school staff attempted to rouse their pupils. Despite the fact that the alarm was very loud and persistent, it was clear that awakening them was not going to be straightforward (Indeed, it is recognised that young children – particularly boys – are hard to wake even during very loud alarms) Furthermore, it also became clear that the supervising adults did not have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
Amidst the subsequent confusion, two pupils were overlooked and staff had to re-enter the building to bring them out. Following this incident, the local authority issued the following points of help and guidance aimed at preventing a similar problem in the future.
The school staff must:
- carry out the fire drill and understand it is their responsibility to evacuate their students – the staff at the centre will probably not be available, so should not be waited for or relied upon;
- have a clear evacuation plan and understand their evacuation route and how to reach their assembly point;
- ensure all supervising staff know in advance what their role will be;
- be methodical in sweeping all areas ensuring all children are out;
- move bedding to be certain no child is hidden in bed;
- sweep from left to right covering each room or area;
- pay particular attention to staff and students with disabilities;
- hold an easily accessible emergency list with medical conditions of students;
- have an easily available staff and student list for role check;
- introduce a ‘grab bag’ containing first aid kit, torch, foil blankets, hi-viz jacket, whistle, role board;
- ensure that a roll call is confirmed immediately at assembly point;
- confirm that all students and staff are accounted for on completion of roll call and inform centre staff of this;
- know procedures for the venue’s policy on searching for a missing child during fire evacuation;
- make use of mobile phones for further communication;
- de-brief on completion of fire drill.