Why do fire safety officers get upset with paper in corridors?

It's well known that the management of school premises includes the requirement to comply with Regulation 17 of The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999. This requires that every part of a school building, and of the land provided for a school, shall be such that the safe escape of the occupants in case of fire is reasonably assured.

More specifically, officers include in their assessments:

  • The likely rate at which flames will spread across exposed surfaces
  • Resistance to fire of the structure and of the materials of which the structures are made and their properties.
  • The means of escape in the case of fire.

We hear it from both sides of this fence. It’s not unusual to see paper stored in boxes at the edges or ends of corridors. It’s a school after all. You’d expect a lot of paper and space is in very short supply. However, fire officers see this as a big risk factor bearing in mind point 1 above. The rate at which flames will spread is obviously affected by the presence of highly combustible material, i.e. boxes of paper. Of course, the means of escape could be compromised if boxes are stored at the end of the corridors.

So there are several underlying issues here. One is the apparent need to store paper in these areas. A possible solution to this is to scan your documents. The other issue is the management of the risk of fire and the appreciation of what the practice of storing paper actually means to the risk levels.

Now it’s not enough to simply borrow a fire risk assessment template from somewhere and cut and paste your particular details in. Each assessment should be particular to your property and you should assess the risks accordingly. Your local authority or other similar body will be able to help you with this and don’t forget that it’s a living document so any changes to the property could mean an adjustment to the risk assessment.

Every will certainly help with this. Not only does it have a fire risk assessment activity already in the system but you can also upload your assessment and manage any recommendations through to rectification using the easy to use issues log. This offers you many obvious advantages. You can log when your assessments have been performed; upload your assessment for a timeless copy instantly at hand; audit trail of your work to address the recommendations