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February 14, 2023


Lithium-Ion batteries. A guide to the fire risk that isn’t going away but can be managed

Fire protection

Improving fire safety in schools: Marlborough Science Academy

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires school management teams to undertake risk assessments that identify the general fire precautions needed to ensure the safety of occupants in case of fire, including safe means of escape. Despite this, Home Office figures show that in the 2021-22 financial year, there were more than 300 fires at schools in England – almost one a day – with severe financial, emotional and social impacts not only on school pupils and teachers, but also their wider communities.

MarlboroughScienceAcademy Amthal-FireSfety-23Matthew Thompson, Project Manager in the Installation Team at Amthal Fire & Security, uses his recent experience of working with Marlborough Science Academy and Honeywell Gent, to look at the bigger picture of today’s advances in fire safety, used to protect pupils, staff and visitors.

Against a backdrop of today’s challenges, where speed is of the essence, we have to protect vital assets. This has been of notable high-profile recently, following the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 and its subsequent inquiry that has only recently closed. It has led to many consultations and new fire safety measures and legislation, together with guidance for all buildings, including schools.

Here, a DfE spokesperson said the safety of pupils and staff in schools was “paramount, which is why we are reviewing our fire safety guidance to strengthen the requirements on new buildings, or for when major alterations are taking place to existing buildings”.

Fire safety concerns in schools

Alongside the physical impact of fires on our schools, the economic and social impact of fires on staff, pupils and the local community can be significant, causing financial hardship, emotional trauma and a delay in learning.

A study conducted by the National Foundation for Education Research found that 17% of schools experiencing a fire suffered a drop in staff morale and 6% of them a fall in morale among pupils. A further 7% suggested that a fire had led to negative publicity about their school.

Whilst in times of plenty, immediate needs are often prioritised over future requirements. When budget and resource is stretched, with predictions of a new period of austerity – despite a Government pledge to “push up school standards and support schools” with extra funding – a different mindset is still required.

It forces a long-term scalable view, where every investment and work programme is scrutinised far more closely. It is essential to build a strong case from the ground up.

Marlborough Science Academy

This is exactly how we operated with Marlborough Science Academy, our largest school project to date. Having previously worked with the specialist science technology and sixth form to deliver IP CCTV and access control, our next phased programme of works was to install a dedicated fire alarm system, capable of protecting the circa 1,200 students and over 80 staff.

Chris Paice, Estates Manager, H&S Coordinator and Covid Coordinator at The Marlborough Science Academy, explained: “We have a duty of care to every staff member, pupil and visitor to ensure buildings remain safe and secure. We have worked with Amthal for a number of years to constantly evolve our security and fire safety offering. The summer and early autumn months are always especially hectic as we strive to complete as much as possible without interfering with learning timetables.”

The Marlborough Science Academy is a secondary school and sixth form, located in St Albans, Hertfordshire, England.

Connected life safety services

Amthal conducted a risk assessment at Marlborough Science Academy, and utilised its partnership with Honeywell Gent, as part of its ‘24 Network of Approved System Integrators’, to present Connected Life Safety Services (CLSS,) that integrates with Amthal’s SimPRO end-to-end field service management software.

CLSS is an all-in-one cloud platform that enables Amthal to deliver an enhanced fire safety service, while maximising the performance efficiencies offered by Honeywell’s detection and alarm systems.

By harnessing the power of data, it delivers the connectivity and intelligence needed for secure, compliant and more efficient fire system management. Maintained from the cloud, testing and maintenance can be carried out compliantly, with less disruption to everyday school activity, with the information needed to mitigate life safety events.

Mark Hunter, Business Manager at Honeywell added: “The key to success at Marlborough Science Academy was really the close working partnership between the school Estates Team, Amthal, Honeywell and principal contractors, to coordinate works and minimise disruption.

“By installing Honeywell’s CLSS system, Marlborough is guaranteed system compliance and a solution that enables a holistic view and real time information. it will enable an exact fire response to be known, even before anyone gets to site, which really can save lives.”

Taking each site as a bespoke application, Amthal has also installed bespoke fire alarm aspiration sensing technology (FAAST) in the gymnasium, sports hall, cafeteria and assembly hall of Marlborough Science Academy to deliver highly accurate and discreet very early warning fire detection, that can be monitored from anywhere.

Alongside implementing new services, Amthal worked with the principal contractors to install over 550 devices, all hard wired to an L1 fire alarm system standard, using over 10km of cable.

Work also included updating fire alarms, and fire doors, as one of the most important safety features in a building, in line with latest legislation, alongside a significant level of fire compartmentation for effective risk management. Regular product specifications or dedicated fire door inspections are essential to fully ensure that Health and Safety measures are met.

“Compliance through regular and thorough maintenance and monitoring”

As Chris concluded: “This installation when considered in its entirety, ensures compliance reports can be available at anytime, anywhere with just the click of a button, leading to significant efficiency, time and resource savings. More importantly, we have the resources to provide the earliest detection of a fire and allow optimal time to evaluate the risk, respond, remediate and potentially avoid evacuation of students and faculty, facility damage or loss.”

In summary, Marlborough Science Academy is a clear example of a learning community that stands proud and continues to flourish through a combination of dedicated staff and strong pupil drive to embrace their learning opportunities. The ethos that a happy, secure and confident young person will thrive.

The basis of this, is with regular and thorough maintenance and monitoring utilising CLSS, Amthal can ensure the compliance and performance of fire safety systems remotely to improve overall fire safety in the educational environment.

This can only aid the creation of a safe and secure place for students and staff in which they are free to learn and work. And further in the extended schools’ agenda, local communities can benefit from the increasingly high-tech facilities our schools have to offer.

Independently owned, Amthal is accredited by the Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB) United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) and British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE).


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