New measures announced for fire safety in schools

A sample audit of buildings is expected to be completed by next January

New measures announced for fire safety in schools

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The Department of Education has announced a package of initiatives to ensure fire safety measures in schools meet best practice.

They are being undertaken as an added precaution by the department, after consultations with stakeholders following recent concerns over fire safety in public buildings.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education says: "Ensuring the safety of all those who work and learn in our schools is a main priority of the Department of Education and Skills.

"It is important to note that the department does not believe that there are issues regarding fire safety with schools generally, rather these measures are being taken in order to take an abundance of caution approach in this area."

The department is to appoint a fire safety expert to undertake a complete audit of all school buildings constructed by Western Building Systems (WBS).

This follows on from the identification of a number of issues about the compliance by a number of schools constructed by WBS with their fire safety certificates.

The department says it does not have any reason to believe that there are any fire safety issues in respect of any of the other buildings built by WBS.

The spokesperson adds: "These audits are a proactive measure being taken, following on from consultation with stakeholders, to satisfy the department that there are no further issues with school buildings constructed by that company.

"It is anticipated that this will take approximately six months to complete this number of audits.

"However, in each case, the department will require an early report from the fire safety consultants conducting the audit if any issue of significant concern is discovered."

New fire safety appointments

A tender for the appointment of fire safety consultants is set to be completed by mid-October, with the first set of reports will provided to the department by the end of the year.

The department is in the process of commissioning fire safety audits of a representative sample of up to 25 schools constructed over the last 20 years.

The sample audit is expected to be completed by January 2018.

The department has written to all design teams working on buildings currently under construction to remind them of responsibilities to ensure that all buildings comply with fire certificates awarded by the local authority.

It will also issue a new circular to all schools about their obligations in relation to fire safety management protocols.

While a Clerk of Works is to be appointed by the department, to "provide an extra layer of checking and oversight during the construction process."

An internal fire safety committee is also being established within the department to monitor any patterns arising from day to day interactions with schools and the results from the various audits.

Finally under a new protocol, when the department receives a fire audit report which demonstrates issues about fire safety, the department will immediately notify the school's patron body, its board of management and the fire officer in the relevant local authority.