Fire risk in schools is twice that of other buildings

October 1, 2020

The average fire risk in English schools is double that of other commercial buildings, according to an alarming new study by Zurich Municipal. (1)

In the study of almost 29,000 primary and secondary schools in England, the leading insurer of schools in the UK found that the average school posed a risk 1.7 times greater than non-residential buildings and was three times more likely to fall into the ‘high’ fire risk category than other non-residential buildings. 

On average, large school fires cost £2.8 million to repair, with that figure rising as high as £20 million.

Lack of equipment

As well as shining a light on these alarming statistics, the report highlights that many schools do not have the equipment required to prevent small fires becoming major disasters:

  • 66% of the 1,000 schools Zurich inspected were found to have ‘poor’ fixed fire protection systems designed to reduce fire damage, such as sprinklers
  • 25% of the schools were rated ‘poor’ for fire detection measures, such as fire alarms and smoke detectors

This study echoes statistics released by London Fire Brigade (LFB) in 2019. Of the 57 school fires in the capital that the LFB attended none of them had sprinklers fitted. Speaking at the time, Charlie Pugsley, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said: “Sprinklers are the only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire and can raise the alarm. Sprinklers save lives and protect property. Millions of pounds are wasted every year repairing fire damage in London’s schools when sprinklers could have prevented the spread of fire.” (2)

The London Fire Brigade have been long-time advocates for making sprinklers in schools a mandatory requirement, and Zurich have now launched a parliamentary petition calling on MPs to change the law on sprinklers in schools, which you can view here.

Safeguarding your school

If you’re responsible for health and safety or fire risk assessments at your school or academy trust, get in touch to see how we could work together to safeguard your staff and pupils.


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