Saving our schools: need for a national strategy: Saving Our Schools, a House of Commons seminar sponsored by the All Party Parliamentary Fire Safety Group, drew delegates' attention to the huge and escalating problem of arson attacks on schools, with speakers calling for a national strategy to tackle the menace head on, with sprinklers identified as the pivotal tool.(Seminar Report)

There are four aspects of fire protection in schools which need to be addressed, Adrian Clark, Chair, Fire Safety Development Group, suggested to delegates at the sprinkler seminar on June 30. These are: Building Regulations, which need to he more robust on what they require, especially on compartmentalisation in schools; The right construction materials are required, limiting fire load; Sprinklers have an essential part to play stopping fires in the building; and, effective structural fire protection is required to keep fire started outside the building, outside the building, and to stop fire spread within the building.

First, CFO Peter Holland, Chair; National Fire Sprinkler Network, identified the problem: 70 per cent of school fires are started deliberately costing 96 million [pounds sterling] this year already "In my fire service area we've had three arson attacks on schools in the past week alone," he reported, adding that the cost of replacement to one village primary school Maze in 2001 was 2 million [pounds sterling]. "Government should be concerned that money committed to school building--10 billion [pounds sterling] since 1997--is being diverted into rebuilding premises that have been subjected to arson attacks."

CFO Holland said that a robust case should be made to policy makers explaining how such losses occur and that they are not inevitable. "It is important to raise these issues as Government prepares to invest a further 3 billion [pounds sterling]," plus the impending publication of the DfES consultation document, Building Schools for the Future, and review of Building Regulations during 2004.

Some solutions were proffered by Larry Stokes. Zurich Municipal, who suggested using construction materials with low combustibility, securing bin areas, retrofitting void barriers in older schools to prevent rapid fire spread (a recurrent theme), securing perimeters, introducing automatic fire alarms and of course, ill stalling sprinklers, plus curriculum tools to deflect firesetters. …

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