Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Fire Alarms: NO to ending automatic response in schools !

The following letter and advice originally appeared in The Teacher magazine, November-December 2015.

There has been a change to fire procedures in my school without any consultation. It used to be the case that when the fire alarm was activated, the fire brigade would respond automatically. Now they will only do so following a phone call from someone at the school. Why is this happening and what is the NUT's response?

Following consultation with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), we have discovered that fire and rescue services across the UK are adopting policies similar to that which you describe. It will come as no surprise that this is about cutting the number of calls attended, in order to reduce the number of fire engines deployed and save money.

As with many arguments regarding the fire service, this policy is prompted by a superficial view. It is true that a large proportion of fire calls received by the fire service are from automatic fire alarms. It is also true that a very large number of these calls are false due to one of the following reasons:
  • faulty equipment
  • accidental activation
  • no-fire activation (eg steam or smoke from cooking)
  • malicious intent (holding a smouldering match to a smoke detector).
The FBU supports initiatives to reduce false calls, for example through good management of buildings. But policies such as these are not ones that the FBU accepts or agrees with, and neither does the NUT.

There is no quick solution to this, as it results from policy of the Chief Fire Officers Association, but the NUT will continue to liaise with the FBU to raise our concerns and support their position.

We would advise members to check with their head teacher whether this policy applies in their school as in some cases schools haven't been consulted on or informed of the change. The priority should always be to ensure safe evacuation of pupils and staff.

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