Fire safety for Shropshire

Keep public buildings safe from fire is the joint message from Shropshire Council and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. Left to right: Helen Lambert, Tim Mason, Jane Emery, delegates Chris Parton, Lorna Hullah and Ian Morris with Lawrence Ellerby.

A fire safety video showing a small room rapidly devastated by fire in just 48 seconds when an electrical fault triggered a fierce blaze was "quite sobering," said a council officer.

The shocking film was all part of an extensive training exercise launched by Shropshire Council and supported by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to educate managers and custodians of the council's public buildings.

More than 400 staff responsible for museums, schools, care homes, community centres and other public buildings have attended 15 three hour seminars over the past 15 months to inform them about their legal responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Jane Emery, Risk Management Officer and Chair of the Shropshire Fire Service Group, said the seminars had been a "phenomenal success" with representatives attending from 95 per cent of Shropshire Council schools.

"The law requires us to carry out a fire risk assessment," Tim Mason, Shropshire Council's Building Surveyor told a group of representatives of schools, council offices and museums at the final session held at the Shirehall in Shrewsbury. He said the fire video was "quite sobering."

Fire safety guidance books for schools and businesses are available from the Department for Communities and Local Government. Managers are led through the whole process by the guide to initial Fire Risk Assessments which includes a series of fire safety questionnaires.

Typical combustible materials such as books, paper, cardboard and rubbish must be kept away from ignition sources such as electrical appliances said Lawrence Ellerby, of the fire service's Business Fire Safety inspection team.

Appropriate fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers, evacuation plans mixed with regular fire drills and employee training were essential, he told delegates.

The fire service is offering similar awareness sessions to hotel managers and bed and breakfast owners before they carry out 200 planned audits of their premises to ensure they comply with the law.

Cleobury Mortimer Primary School head Bavita Williams said her school of 213 pupils did have fire safety systems in place but the training session had been very important and invaluable to give re-assurance.

Chris Parton, site manager of the 1,000 pupil Grove School in Market Drayton, and a former construction company operations director, said schools and businesses should not feel "daunted" by the demand to carry out a fire risk assessment.

All the information was available and "it was common sense" to carry out weekly fire alarm tests, regular checks on safety lights, fire extinguishers and to ensure fire exits were kept clear.

12th March, 2010