Covid security mustn’t compromise fire safety as students return to face-to-face teaching

News | June 2021

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As students return to face-to-face teaching after months of learning online, CDS is reminding universities that reconfiguring the layout of their public spaces and lecture theatres to ensure Covid security may mean their fire risk assessments are out of date.

And it suggests that, if they haven’t already done so, these need to be renewed as a matter of urgency – not only to ensure compliance, but to protect the lives of students and staff.

A number of practical measures can help marry the seemingly conflicting needs of Covid security with fire safety. For example, while increasing ventilation can help minimise the spread of the virus, it can also increase the spread of fire.

Fire door retainers provide an easy, safe and legal way to hold fire doors open, increase ventilation and reduce the use of touch surfaces such as door handles and door plates. The plunger devices deactivate on hearing a fire alarm, shutting the doors.

As part of a much wider fire safety strategy carried out for Nottingham Trent University across 60 buildings on three campuses, CDS supplied more than 500 such devices.

Fire risk assessments are a legal requirement for all non-domestic premises under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) in England and Wales, as well as for the communal areas of residential buildings such as student accommodation.

A new one needs to be carried out every time changes are made to the building – which includes measures universities may have made to ensure their public spaces are safe from a Covid viewpoint. These may include changes such as altering desk layouts, installing partitioning, amending exit routes and moving fire meeting points.

As well as overseeing the fire safety strategy, designing, installing and maintaining life safety systems for universities, CDS works with major student accommodation providers.

These include global property management company Greystar, which has a multi-billion-pound portfolio of large-scale rental properties across London.

CDS, which has a 33-year track record in the commercial and public sectors, can carry out a fire risk assessment and specify, supply and fit equipment which will ensure that COVID-19 compliance doesn’t compromise fire safety.