Top 10 Tips for Fire Safety in Childcare Nurseries
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Keeping children safe!
This article looks at the Top 10 Tips for the Nursery and Childcare Sector. In a childcare environment especially, you don’t only have your business to protect but also young lives that are an even bigger priority. To keep them as safe as possible, preventing a disaster such as a fire should be at the very top of your list.
Here are 10 ways that you can do just that in your nursery.
Ensure You Have A Fire Risk Assessment
Maintaining a safe nursery environment should be the single most important thing that you do when thinking about fire safety.
Think about where you keep items within your nursery. Is bedding stored near sources of heat or too close to electric outlets? How many electrical items do you have plugged into electrical sockets; are they overloaded? Is your tumble dryer filter full of lint? Good housekeeping is an essential part of fire prevention management.
Because of the level of complexity presented by such premises, a nursery’s management team may wish to contract a ‘competent person’ to conduct a fire risk assessment.
A fire risk assessment plays a fundamental part in any fire safety plan and is a legal requirement so it’s wise to make this one of your first steps.
We follow a ‘5-step’ approach to Life Safety Fire Risk Assessments as required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and utilise PAS 79 (a framework for Qualitative Risk Assessment which offers a methodology and structured approach to Fire Risk Assessment for people with knowledge of the principles of fire safety). This ensures that our clients’ premises are adequately assessed for fire risks to life, property and business continuity. A full, detailed and bespoke report is produced and consultation is offered following the fire risk assessment to discuss any significant findings and required actions to achieve a satisfactory standard of fire safety within your premises.
Review your Fire Risk Assessment annually
It’s essential for safety that you always keep your fire risk assessment up-to-date, so make sure to update it whenever anything changes in your nursery environment. This includes changes to building layout, procedures or operations. It only takes a few minor alterations to have an impact. By reviewing it annually, even if nothing changes, you can be sure that all measures are in place. In more cases than not, something has been missed or not added from before, so an annual review is a great way to catch anything that has passed under the radar.
Hold regular fire drills
Many businesses and organisations don’t take the risks of fires seriously, thinking that it will never happen to them and when it comes to fire drills, just going through the motions of carrying out a rehearsed “line up and walk out quickly” approach.
An evacuation is a scary thing for people of any age, and especially so for young children. The loud noise and hurried activity of a fire drill can upset a child, particularly one that is unaware of what is happening. That’s why, where possible in regards to age and understanding, it is important to inform children (and staff) as to what to expect during a fire drill without panicking them or undermining the importance.
Turning your explanation into a kind of game can help, detailing the “actions” and “rules” used when a fire alarm goes off (e.g. staying calm, following a staff member through the nearest fire exit, walking to the assembly point, lining up in a specific place, etc) and if you can, simulate different scenarios that may arise. Make some of the practices planned, where you sit and talk about safety before leaving the premises and others totally unplanned, where you all have to get up and go to the assembly point.
The nature of some day care facilities means that not all children who may attend are in on the same day. This will necessitate carrying out drills on different days of the week in order to familiarise all children to the process, limiting stress and panic in the event of a real evacuation. Similarly, increasing the regularity of drills means more practice and increased familiarity.
Promote Good Housekeeping
Practice good housekeeping – Clutter contributes to fires by providing fuel and by preventing access to exits and emergency equipment. Ensure that anything that may easily catch fire e.g. flammable and combustible waste materials, including waste paper, cardboard, oily rags or rubbish, is kept to a minimum and does not contribute to a fire.
Laundry Precautions – One of the most hazardous areas located within nurseries can often be the laundry area, due to its frequent use, large amounts of fuel, electrical equipment and sources of heat. It is imperative that tumble drier filters are cleaned of lint and that ducting is cleaned periodically to prevent the ignition of these light and fibrous materials. Regular inspections should keep on top of this preventative issue, helping to lower the risk of fire. The cleaning and emptying of tumble dryer filters by laundry staff after each use should be encouraged.
Fire escapes – escape routes must be kept clear from trip hazards e.g. shoes by the door and doors must be easy to open in an emergency.
Staff to smoke only in designated smoking areas – and be sure that smoking materials are always extinguished and disposed of safely, preferably in a metal container.
Arson is the cause of 45% of fires – Check the areas outside the building and remove anything that might be tempting to an opportunist arsonist.
Turn off all electrical appliances at the end of the day – it goes without saying that electrical appliances can easily overheat or malfunction, and become a huge fire hazard in the office. So, at the end of each day, ensure that all appliances are turned off and help prevent a disastrous situation happening overnight.
Don’t overload circuits – overloading electrical circuits with more than the recommended capacity can cause the fuse to blow, overheat and become a huge fire hazard. Avoid overloading plug sockets, multi-plug adaptors or extension leads.
Keep easy access to electrical control panels – if there is an emergency and you need to shut down a particular machine, the last thing you want to be doing is moving obstacles or equipment out of the way before you can even get to the control panel. Always be sure that nothing is stored directly in front of electrical control panels e.g. prams, pushchairs, buggies, car seats, etc., to allow easy access to shut the system down in case of an emergency and preferably have them visibly marked to enable swift identification at a moment’s notice.
Report any electrical faults – electrical faults are one of the main causes of office fires, so it’s important that everyone on the premises keeps a lookout for any potential electrical faults, and immediately draws attention to them. Have all your electrical equipment checked regularly and have a reporting procedure in place for employees to use. Poorly maintained equipment causes fires!
Create Fire Escape Routes
Ideally, the main entrance to your premises will be the usual way in and out as it is the route people are most familiar with. Of course, you also need a plan B should that route become blocked, and both should lead to an assembly point a safe distance from the premises.
They must take people to a place of safety, have clear signs, be free from obstruction and be well lit.
Persons should be familiar with the best and quickest, route out to the location of the assembly point. They can then act swiftly in an emergency without panicking.
Final exit doors – must be checked every day to make sure that they are unlocked and that there is nothing behind them to hinder an evacuation.
Keep fire doors shut – There should be adequate escape routes from the childcare facility. Fire doors protecting the escape routes should be self-closing and fire-resisting. Doors across escape routes and at exits should be easily opened without the need for a key. Fire doors are in place to stop the spread of fire and keep routes protected, make sure they’re not wedged open.
Emergency lighting – All emergency routes and exits must be well lit. Include lighting at each door, corridor, change of direction and floor level, staircase, and next to fire-fighting equipment and alarms. Be sure to test emergency lighting regularly.
Fire safety signs – All fire safety signs should contain pictures so anyone can understand them at a glance. Ensure they are well lit so they can be seen in an emergency, even if the power goes out.
Train your Employees in Fire Safety
Employee engagement is the best method of continual compliance in any workplace.
Training works – Giving people the right information about fire safety is a legal requirement. It works. Once people understand the potential effects of a fire, they change their behaviour for the better, for good.
There should be an induction process for new staff and regular training and fire drills for all staff and children. The importance of keeping fire doors shut should be emphasized. Training should include the means of raising the alarm, the evacuation plan, the location of the external assembly point and how to call the fire brigade. If fire-fighting equipment is provided then a suitable number of staff should be trained in its use.
Sufficient numbers of trained staff should be available to enable a safe and efficient evacuation, taking into account the need to assist or carry children. Parents should be advised of the procedures including the location of the assembly point.
Know Your Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers – it’s important to ensure that the workplace has the appropriate type and number of fire extinguishers to account for the size and the company and that everyone in the vicinity knows how to operate them properly, in case of emergency. They should be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
In a nursery, having water and CO2 fire extinguishers are a necessity as you can train your staff to quickly prevent a fire from escalating if safe to do so. Additionally, don’t forget a fire blanket for kitchen areas and fire safety signage. If you need a particular extinguisher to counter a specific hazard, such as flammable liquids, this should be raised in your fire risk assessment.
Create a fire safety strategy
Most fires can be prevented through staff, fire safety awareness and attention to safety considerations, so create a fire safety strategy that everyone can follow to maintain a safe and secure nursery environment. Outline daily safety checks that staff members need to be upholding, train them in safety and emergency procedures, outline an effective emergency exit plan (A and B in different situations, i.e. if the main exit is blocked).
Choose and train designated fire marshals to assist with an evacuation.
Fire safety procedures and notices should be written and displayed to provide information to staff and visitors about emergency plans.
The layout of your premises
The location of the childcare facility within the building. Ideally, it should be situated on the ground floor with an exit directly to the outside of the building. Where this is not possible it should be as near to the ground floor as possible.
The layout of the childcare facility should be conducive to a safe escape, with any cooking or heating facility being sited remote from the exits.
Additional automatic fire detection may be required to ensure adequate early detection and warning of fire. If a two-stage fire alarm system is installed, the evacuation of the children should commence on the first-stage alert.
Please note that this article provides basic easy-to-understand guidance of fire safety provisions and the key fire safety information required to comply with legislation. Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. We aim to assist you to understand the fire-related terms within your Fire Risk Assessment. It does not provide detailed technical guidance on all fire safety provisions, and you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.
Fire Risk Consultancy Services have the knowledge and experience to assist your business to comply with all legal requirements surrounding fire safety including legislation. Be sure to read our accompanying guides: Fire Alarm System Types, Fire Extinguishers, Emergency Lighting, Fire Doors, Fire Safety Signs, also published on this site.
Please take a moment to have a look around our website where you will find related articles and guides to all the services we can provide your business with, from providing Fire Risk Assessments, fire safety training, full advisory service to Articles on Fire Safety Provisions and our Top Fire Safety Tips!