any strikes, the Ministry of Defence will provide emergency
fire and rescue cover as part of national contingency arrangements.
The 999 system will continue to operate with calls being diverted
on a temporary basis to alternative operations centres. From
there, emergency fire crews and other specialised teams will
be mobilised from temporary fire stations. Military fire crews
are trained and equipped to carry out basic fire-fighting
and rescue operations. They will not have the same capability
as local fire brigades and they are more widely dispersed.
Schools therefore should consider what additional measures
they can put in place to prevent fire and limit damage.
From a health and safety perspective, it is anticipated that
all schools shall be able to continue normal activities unaffected
by the dispute. However, during periods when the Fire Service
is on strike, it is foreseeable that:-· Attendance
times to some incidents will be increased.
· The emergency services attending will have fewer
· The emergency services attending may be unfamiliar
with the incident site and the local geography.Accordingly,
schools should consider the implications of, and risks associated
with, the potentially reduced emergency services response
and where appropriate institute supplementary measures and
arrangements to prevent incidents and minimise the consequences
of reduced emergency response cover.
GuidanceStaff and pupils are encouraged to visit the Office
of the Deputy Prime Minister's fire prevention website - http://www.firekills.gov.uk
The Fire Industry Confederation has produced information on
what to do in preparation for possible industrial action by
fire fighters - http://www.the-fic.org.uk,
The Department for Education and Skills Fire Safety Guide
is at http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/fire.
It includes a checklist of hazards that can be dealt with
by the school (page 44). It may be worth paying particular
attention to science labs, kitchens etc.
The Department for Education and Skills Safe Keeping: A Good
Practice Guide to Health and Safety in Study Support (http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/studysupport)
includes advice on evacuation procedures and the need for
an accurate record of who is in the building outside normal
A Fire Action Plan support pack for schools, for use in e.g.
PSHE lessons, can be downloaded from http://www.safety.odpm.gov.uk/fire/fepd/cfs/index2000.htm.
What schools will need to be aware of· In the event
of a strike the emergency fire crews will provide fire cover
using "green goddess" fire appliances, supplemented
by specialist breathing apparatus teams.
· The military fire fighters will be thinly spread
and will give priority to saving life. They are less likely
to arrive at a fire quickly and are less likely to know their
way around school premises. The risk of a small fire becoming
a major conflagration may be more likely because of this,
particularly at night.· The military fire crews are
unlikely to handle other fire brigade jobs, such as broken
down lifts, unless someone is physically trapped in the mechanism.What
schools can do· If there is a fire, schools should
ring 999 as usual. Automatic alarms won't necessarily bring
· Check now that evacuation procedures work and that
fire precautions are in place.
· If you have not had a fire drill since September,
hold one now.
· Schools with a history of arson attacks might want
to consider whether further measures are needed (eg night
· Consider the risk of losing irreplaceable paperwork,
computer files etc. Consider, for example, keeping duplicate
copies of GCSE and A Level coursework, back-up disks etc elsewhere
or in a secure fire resistant store.
· Consider whether additional arrangements will be
needed in boarding schools, special schools and mainstream
schools that have pupils with disabilities or special educational
needs, who would need help in an evacuation:
· For some pupils the emergency evacuation plan may
need to be at individual pupil level - e.g. where a pupil
has specific medical needs or where complex lifting and handling
or behaviour management is required.
In summary, a fire-fighters' strike would not in itself make
fires any more likely and schools should open normally. This
letter focuses on the possible differences in the service
that schools are likely to find in the event of a fire during
Enquiries resulting from this should be addressed to Mr David
Orr, Health and Safety Officer at 028 3751 2429..