In Student Fire Safety Week CDS says accommodation providers play an important role

Students across the UK are having far more to contend with than they planned this year – with hundreds being confined to their accommodation after Covid outbreaks and everyone having to socially distance and avoid big parties.

Among the new responsibilities to take on board are the messages shared by fire brigades across the country during Student Fire Safety Week, which takes place from October 26 until November 1.

CDS, which has been installing, maintaining and servicing fire safety systems at universities across the country for more than 30 years, supports the advice being issued by the fire service to young people for whom fire safety may not even be on the agenda.

Students are being issued with a ten-point checklist to help them reduce fire risks in their accommodation, which includes warning against propping open fire doors and covering smoke alarms.

In London alone the capital’s fire brigade attends around 60 fires a year in student accommodation. In some cases – 19 over the past five years – no fire or smoke alarm was activated.

Over the past three years there were 3,200 false alarms from student accommodation – wasting valuable 999 resources which could have been deployed elsewhere.

CDS MD Simon Abley said: “Obviously it’s very important that students understand how to play their part in staying safe in their new home.  But as these figures from the London Fire Brigade suggest, it is also the responsibility of the landlords to ensure that their fire safety systems are fully functioning and compliant.

“This means ensuring all early detection systems such as alarms and sprinklers are not only installed but maintained and monitored. Some send a remote signal to a central control panel, meaning that false alarms can be checked before they get as far as the fire brigade. An unnecessary callout to a false alarm could mean the blue light services aren’t available to deal with a genuine emergency.

“We are seeing more and more organisations coming to us for the latest British Standard compliant technology which uses 4G or the internet to monitor fire alarms away from the premises.

“It is also the responsibility of the landlord to have an emergency plan in place and this includes conveying it to the occupants of the building. If the student doesn’t know that a correctly installed and maintained fire door can give a vital extra 30 minutes before it spreads, then propping one open won’t seem like a big deal.

“It’s vital to use a competent, accredited supplier to install, maintain and service an alarm system. It’s also a good idea, for peace of mind and to ensure compliance for that organisation to carry out the risk assessment and emergency plan.”



CDS backs 999 call to install sprinklers in schools after two devastating fires

A call by the National Fire Chiefs Council for all schools to have sprinklers fitted, following the destruction of two schools in Derbyshire this month has been backed by fire detection and life safety specialist CDS.

Neither of the schools which were destroyed, in Mickleover and Darley Abbey, had such systems in place – and the devastation has prompted the fire service to renew its plea for English schools to be afforded the same level of protection as those in Scotland and Wales.

The NFCC, which says there are around 1,500 fires a year in schools across the UK, has been calling for legislation to make them obligatory in new and refurbished schools for a number of years.

It says the rate of schools being fitted with sprinklers may have fallen from 70% to as low as 15% of new builds.

NFCC chair Roy Wilsher said: “We have a responsibility to ensure buildings are safer; sprinklers in schools is clearly a move in the right direction. Children across the UK have had their education severely disrupted this year due to the pandemic; a fire in a school will only make this worse, putting additional pressure on the education service and parents.”

Chief fire officer of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service and NFCC’s lead for sprinklers, Gavin Tomlinson, added: “It is devastating to see the impact of these two fires. The current guidance allows a number of interpretations to the fitting of sprinklers which must be rectified. There are a number of loopholes which should be looked at, which allows designers to take alternative approaches to fire safety. This guidance needs to be re-examined and changes made to protect our schools.

“Sprinklers are one of a range of fire safety measures that would not only protect our schools from fire and prevent injuries, but they would also protect against costly rebuilds and of course, protect against the stress and anxiety caused to the children who need their education.”

The Association of British Insurers says the most expensive school fires cost around £2.8 million to rectify.

CDS has been working with schools across the UK for more than 20 years to supply fire detection and life safety systems.

Its MD Simon Abley explained: “We agree totally with the advice from the NFCC about the clear benefit to schools of installing sprinkler systems. But there is more schools could be doing immediately.

‘We are concerned by the number of schools who either do not have monitoring in place or have monitoring in place that doesn’t comply with regulations. With arson attacks predominantly taking place when the school is closed those without an early warning system will not know the building is on fire until often hours after the blaze starts and the alarm is raised by a member of the public who sees it out of their window in the middle of the night.

“We are now seeing some schools choosing the latest technology which means fire alarms can be monitored away from the premises and in accordance with British Standards. Such products use 4G networks or the internet, with the signals transmitted to a remote monitoring centre.”