Wrightstyle and School Fire Safety
The glass and glazing industries have come a long way in the past few years, developing protective systems to better contain fire and therefore assist safe evacuation.
- By Jane Embury
- October 12, 2017
Schools are where we entrust the next generation, our children, and mostly, it’s a trust that is reciprocated in good facilities and teaching staff – and effective emergency procedures to deal with any eventuality.
Generally, that means protecting buildings against the threat of fire and, if a fire does start, having a rehearsed evacuation strategy to bring everyone to safety.
It’s a requirement that all schools have to adhere to as the threat of fire, despite being a diminishing risk, isn’t as remote as we would like. Sometimes, worse, it’s deliberate.
There are hundreds of arson attacks on schools each year and a third of these happen during the school day, often perpetrated by either a school student or ex-pupil.
Schools, like everywhere else, are required to undertake risk assessments to identify the general fire precautions needed to safeguard the safety of occupants in case of fire, including their safe means of escape.
The risk assessment guides the fire evacuation plan, recognizing the particular vulnerability of children, and covers everything from escape routes, signage, internal and external doors, and assembly points – not forgetting a roll call for all staff and children.
For example, occupants in a building should generally be able to escape away from the fire. That means having escape routes protected by fire-resistant materials or self-closing fire doors. It also means recognizing that fire travels upwards, so that stairways must be protected.
It also means having doors that open outwards to make escape easier and, if there are large numbers of people, minimizing the crush risk. (Exterior fire doors should also be checked to ensure that obstructions, such as bulk deliveries, aren’t cluttering them up).
Fire fatalities in schools are thankfully rare. But it’s worth remembering the Lakeview School Fire in 1908 that killed 172 students, two teachers and one rescuer. It had open stairways, no fire breaks and only two exits.
Or the 1958 Our Lady of the Angels fire in Chicago that claimed the lives of 87 children and three nuns. The school only had one fire escape, no sprinklers, no fire-protected stairways and no fire doors.
While fire safety regulation has come a long way since then, complacency is the biggest threat – not checking fire alarms, leaving fire doors propped open, and not ensuring complete understanding of fire drills through regular practice.
At Wrightstyle, our business is about managing the risk of fire. Our systems stop fire, smoke and toxic gases from spreading unchecked – for up to 120 minutes, and thereby minimizing fire damage and allowing occupants to escape.
Our compatible steel or aluminum systems, with the glass and framing systems tested together, are accredited to EU, US and Asia Pacific standards and our advice is to always specify the glass and frame as one unit: in a real fire situation, the glass will only be as protective as its frame, and vice versa.
The glass and glazing industries have come a long way in the past few years, developing protective systems to better contain fire and therefore assist safe evacuation – not least in educational establishments where there can be large numbers of the very young.