Sunday 19 August 2018

Fire safety probe: Schools only given audits on the same day as they were released to the public

Belmayne Educate Together National School, Belmayne North, Dublin 13. 3/9/17 Picture Fergal Phillips
Belmayne Educate Together National School, Belmayne North, Dublin 13. 3/9/17 Picture Fergal Phillips
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

All five schools where safety audits found fire safety breaches did not learn of the reports until the day they were released to the general public.

The Department of Education has confirmed that schools were provided with the relevant reports only last Friday - the same day it published the reports online and notified the media.

This is despite the fact that the reports were finalised in July 2016.

Fire safety audits were carried out at five schools built by Western Building Systems under a rapid delivery programme in 2008.

The audits were required after breaches of fire safety rules were discovered and remedied at Rusk and Lusk Educate Together National School in 2014, which was also built by WBS.

Fire safety inspections were carried out in January 2016, and reports finalised the following July.

The Department of Education said the firm agreed to complete works in June last year, but that many remain incomplete.

One of the affected schools, Belmayne ETNS operates in a building that is leased from Western Building Systems.

On August 23 the school was informed that the firm would be returning to the school to carry out works and were provided, on request, a summary outlining the works required.

The works are due to be completed later this month but the school management and principal was assured it was safe for school to reopen for this term.

In the email the principal said Dublin Fire Brigade said “the schools at Belmayne are considered to be safe and fit for continued occupation. The schools have adequate means of escape and functioning life safety systems (Fire Alarm and Emergency Lighting systems).”

The school also carries out regular fire drills to ensure an evacuation time of three minutes, the email stated. The school has also moved to reassure parents that it is keeping the situation under “strict review”.

It is understood that there was a meeting at the school today with the department and the school has received fresh assurances that the school is safe and the works are being carried out as required.

The original audit into safety standards at the school found that  essential works were needed immediately.

"Stores" needed to be removed under the stairs and replaced with fire-rated separation to protect the escape routes, soil/drainage pipes needed to be installed to pass through the floor to protect the floor construction in the event of a fire, and a fire damper/fire door was required to be added to the 'DCC Room' to protect an escape route.

Other essential works required were that compartmentation/cavity barriers be fitted in external wall cavities, that the '60 minutes' element of the structure be improved to assist in fire-resistance, though this wasn't found to be a "sufficient cause for immediate collapse". Fire-stopping also had to be improved, but there was a "level of protection" provided already.

In a statement to Independent.ie the Department of Education for comment said:

"Each of the schools in question was provided with a copy of the relevant report on their school on Friday last prior to the publication".

However, the department did not address why this was the case.

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