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Fire Safety Lapses found in some schools

Posted by SchoolDays Newshound, on 03/09/2017. Fire Safety Lapses found in some schoolsTags: Education An Politics Parenting Teachers

The Department of Education and Skills announced on 1st September that it is publishing a public tender notice on the Governments e-tenders website to commission fire safety audits of a representative sample of up to 25 schools constructed over the last 20 years.

The tender for appointment of fire safety consultants will be completed by the mid October. It is expected that the first set of Fire Safety Audit Reports will be provided to the Department by the end of December 2017. This is part of a process being undertaken as an added precaution by the Department of Education and Skills, prompted by recent concerns in Ireland and abroad regarding fire safety in public buildings. It is intended to give the Department a clear picture of whether there are any issues arising in respect of compliance with fire safety certificates in school building projects completed in the past 20 years or currently under construction.

Following the awarding of the tender, a fire safety consultant will provide specialist independent advice regarding compliance with the Fire Safety Certificate granted to the school and the Building Regulations. The competition is an Open Tender competition and all suitably experienced firms may submit a tender. The Fire Safety Consultants that will be appointed following this tender will inspect and prepare Fire Safety Report on selected school buildings covering all of the following:

(a) Carry out a Fire Safety Review of the original Fire Safety Certificate application submission as the baseline for ensuring compliance with the Fire Safety Certificate granted at the time of design and construction. 

(b) Review all detailed Contract design drawings and specifications in relation to passive and active fire protection systems and confirm that documents reflect Fire Safety Regulation requirements as set out in the Fire Safety Certificate for the building.

(c) To definitively establish in the case of each building, through testing and inspection of all the areas of the construction, any instances of installations and layout that are not compliant with the Fire Safety Certificate granted for the building and to carry out review and validation of completion/commissioning certificates for fire protection systems and passive fire protection elements (i.e. fire-stopping, fire door-sets, etc.)

(d) Undertake the testing of the Fire Protection Systems to ensure compliance with the approved fire strategy.

(e) If fire safety deficiencies are discovered in respect of the Fire Safety Certificate for the building to establish a scope of works and/or actions necessary to bring the complete building into compliance.

(f) To ensure that compliance with the Fire Services Act 1981, Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 and other relevant legislation/regulations is achieved in the management and operation of the facility, the Consultant will be required to review any available Safety File and Operation & Maintenance Manual.  If fire safety deficiencies are discovered in these and/or in the operation of the building, these should be included in the report and suggestions offered as to remedial actions required.

(g) The Consultant is required to review the existing Fire Safety Management manual for the school and report on findings.  The Fire Safety Management manual for the school should address the following: 
i Fire safety policy statement; 
ii Fire alarm response procedures; 
iii Routine maintenance of fire protection systems. Consultant to review current maintenance contract arrangements and advise on how to address any identified deficiencies. iv Routine fire precautions and housekeeping; 
v Designation of duties of key personnel and staff training; 
vi Evacuation procedures complete with Evacuation Diagrammatic Drawings;

(h) Report back on the level of compliance with the Fire Safety Certificate granted for the school building and highlight any deficiencies found.

The Department of Education & Skills is also conducting a review of all major school building projects currently under construction in order to ensure that design teams and contractors are fully engaging in a complete and comprehensive way with the inspection and certification requirements of BC(A)R 2014, particularly with regard to certifying compliance with Part B (Fire Safety) of the Building Regulations 1997.

The amendments to the Building Regulations BC(A)R 2014 which came into force in March 2014 introduced a system of certification requiring those professionals involved in the design and construction of buildings to certify compliance with the Building Regulations before a building can be occupied. This includes certifying compliance with Part B of the Building Regulations 1997 which deals with Fire Safety.

This will cover all major school building projects currently under construction including where the Department is not the building owner.

Separately, the Department today published fire safety reports for each of five school buildings constructed in 2008 where issues have been identified in respect of the compliance with their fire safety certificates. The school buildings in question are:

  • Powerstown ETNS, Dublin,  (Temp - Replaced in April 2017)
  • Gaelscoil Clocha Liatha, Greystones  (Permanent – extended 2016)
  • Mullingar Educate Together NS  (Permanent – being extended)
  • Belmayne Educate Together NS, Dublin (Temp - to be replaced in 2018)
  • St Francis of Assissi, National School, Belmayne, Dublin   (Temp - to be replaced in 2018)        

    The buildings were all constructed by Western Building System Ltd. (WBS) under the Departments Rapid – Design & Build programme in 2008.
    One of these, a semi-permanent building in Powerstown, Dublin, has since been replaced with a new school building completed earlier this year.

    The two schools in Belmayne were constructed as semi-permanent accommodation pending the construction of larger permanent build schools on another site in Belmayne. These semi-permanent buildings are owned by Western Building Systems and are leased by the Department. Construction of the new 16 classroom buildings to replace the existing 8 classroom semi-permanent buildings is scheduled to commence shortly and will be completed in 2018.

    Both Greystones and Mullingar are permanent schools and are owned by the Department. The Greystones building was extended by the Department in 2015 and the Mullingar building is currently being refurbished and extended. Fire safety reports in respect of these schools were completed in July 2016. This followed concern regarding a number of building quality issues, including some fire safety compliance issues, which had arisen in respect of another school, Rush/Lusk Educate Together National School, which had been constructed by Western Building Systems in 2008. The Department carried out significant refurbishment works at that school in 2014 and all issues have been resolved.

    In summary, the findings of these reports indicated issues of insufficient compliance with some requirements of the fire safety certificates in relation to fire retardation in those buildings. The reports found that while the designs which underpinned the Fire Safety Certificates required that the buildings would provide 60 minutes of retardation to facilitate evacuation, the actual quality of construction indicated a level of retardation less than this.

    It is important to note – this is not a finding that the buildings are dangerous, it is a finding that the buildings do not comply with the detailed requirements of the Fire Safety Certificates.

    It is also important to note that in the case of each of the schools, the Department has engaged extensively with the Fire Officers of the relevant Local Authorities. The Fire Officers have broadly welcomed the Department’s proactive approach to dealing with the issues highlighted and have indicated their acceptance of the course of action being followed by the Department, including the identified remediation works and the fact that the schools continue to be occupied on a day-to-day basis.

    In the four remaining schools where fire safety issues have been identified, remedial works are currently being carried out or will shortly commence. The timetable for these works to be completed is as follows:

  • Two Belmayne schools – 17th September
  • Mullingar ETNS – six weeks from today
  • Gaelscoil na nCloth Liath, Greystones – end October

    The Department has also engaged with the relevant school authorities and will keep each informed of the works as these are progressed. The details in respect of each school and the works underway is outlinedth the here along with the full Press Release from the Department of Education


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