Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


How to reduce arson in schools

A fire in a school or education establishment can have a dramatic effect on the educational environment for the pupils and staff, either short term or long term. If a fire is small, such as a bin fire, is not reported and monitored with other activity it could lead to a major fire  to minimise the risks.

There are arson attacks on 20 schools a week in the UK. A third of these happen during normal school hours. Not all these fires are reported to the fire service though, through fear of reputational damage or not thinking a bin fire is serious enough to report. This under-reporting presents a problem by not providing the full scale of the issue and hampering the identification of any trends. 

There are six steps that can be used to reduce the risk of arson

Deterring unauthorised entry onto the site
The perimeter fence/walls are maintained in good order and consider the use of boundary signs to deter intruders, particularly vulnerable areas or known unauthorised access areas.

Prevent unauthorised entry into the buildings
The easiest points of entry are doors and windows, ensure these are in good maintained condition. Skylights are also an easy access point unless fitted with internal bars or grills. The Means of Escape from your premises in the event of a fire should never be compromised

Reducing the opportunity for an offender to start a fire
Arsonists will seldom take combustible items with them and will tend to use what is available on site.  Combustible materials should be kept secured at all times and external combustible storage should be kept secured and away from buildings.

Reduce the scope for potential fire damage
Ensure that all doors are closed at night. This will help contain any fire or smoke, or at the least, slow down the rate of fire growth. Ensure a disaster recovery plan is prepared.

Reduce the subsequent losses and disruption resulting from a fire
Protect valuable equipment and documents by storing them in fire-resisting areas/containers. Back up computer files onto remote servers and keep copies of key records separate from original files.

Fire Risk assessment
Head teachers are responsible for the legal requirement to carry out and maintain risk assessments under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Good housekeeping may help to deter the arsonist with regular meetings for information sharing amongst staff. This will enable staff to report all issues such as minor fires, anti-social behaviour and damaged items. There is a recognised pattern of minor offences that if left could potentially escalate into more serious offences including arson.

The fire service and pPolice can help provide advice on fire risk assessments and crime reduction.


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