By Dave Hipkins, National Technical and Product Manager with Wormald New Zealand
Educational facilities can have the same hazards as any other workplace but they also have a range of risks inherently associated with their presence in the community. Schools and universities are often the target of accidental fires or arson; for example, a recent incident involved a school in Auckland where a deliberately started fire caused significant damage.
Many schools and universities incorporate laboratories or workshops where pupils may be exposed to fire hazards, dangerous substances and machinery.
Typically, the occupants of these educational facilities will be young students who are vulnerable and often ignorant of safety and health hazards. They can actually be a hazard in themselves.
Fire protection is a vital part of building safety and for facility managers, providing a safe environment for students and staff must be the number one priority. It’s important that appropriate fire protection measures are taken and that management is fully aware of the risks, particularly life safety, on a given site. Appropriate action must be taken to control or prevent those risks, for example evacuation procedures must be practiced regularly, escape routes signposted, and fire protection systems and equipment regularly inspected and maintained.
The fire protection equipment found in educational facilities typically includes sprinkler systems, fire alarm detection systems, emergency warning and intercommunication systems, emergency lighting and supplementary fire protection equipment such as hand-held portable fire extinguishers. Passive fire protection features can include fire doors and walls.
Once a suitable fire protection solution is identified and installed, systems and equipment must be maintained and regularly serviced to ensure they are kept in proper working order. All fire protection systems must be maintained in compliance with the Building Act 2004 and relevant New Zealand Standards.
Fire safety training is one of the most important elements of effective fire protection. Training ensures that plans and procedures are in place and ready to be put into action should an emergency situation arise. If a fire occurs, trained staff will have the knowledge to act quickly and be able to help guide students and other building occupants to safety. Evacuation procedures should be practiced regularly so that everyone is aware of what to do and where to go in the event of a fire or other emergency.
Wormald is responsible for servicing fire protection equipment and systems at over 2,200 of New Zealand’s government owned schools. To do so, Wormald deploys a number of advanced solutions to help collate all of the inspection and testing activity information resulting from site attendance, which is then communicated effectively with the respective building or facility manager.