Tuesday 17 September 2019

School by school we look at the breaches found during fire safety audits

Mullingar Educate Together National School, Co Westmeath. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
Mullingar Educate Together National School, Co Westmeath. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
Belmayne Educate Together National School, Belmayne North, Dublin 13. 3/9/17 Picture Fergal Phillips
St Francis of Assisi Primary School, Belmayne, Balgriffin, Dublin 13. 3/9/17 Picture Fergal Phillips
Powerstown Educate Together National School. Picture: Arthur Carron

Gavin White

Fire safety audits in five schools have found a series of breaches of fire safety standards. We look at each school to see what issues were noted in each.

St Francis of Assisi NS, Belmayne, Dublin

Pipes, doors, walls flagged up as needing attention


The Department of Education requested a visual survey be carried out on the fire safety at the school on November 12, 2015.

On January 20, 2016, a more detailed inspection was ordered to find out if the buildings had been built in accordance with the design proposed and on the basis it had been granted a fire safety certificate.

Fire safety engineers prioritised immediate essential improvement works to be carried out.

These included notification that soil/drainage pipes must pass through the floor of the school to protect the floor construction and that an electrical cable cored hole be provided to protect the escape routes.

Essential works to be carried out included that a 60-minute fire resistance provision must be improved within elements of the structure but this was not noted to be sufficient to cause immediate collapse in the event of a fire.

Cavity barriers in external walls are to be installed, and while there is "inappropriate" fire-stopping there is a "level" of protection provided by the current construction and within plasterboards that need to be replaced, the report found.

Remedial works are also required on corridor doors to help with escape routes.

Mullingar Educate Together NS, Co Westmeath

Layout did not correlate with fire certificate

Mullingar Educ.jpg
Mullingar Educate Together National School, Co Westmeath.

A visual inspection of the school took place on November 12, 2015, and a more detailed inspection on January 14, 2016. Another visit on April 15, 2016, took place with a surface quality consultant to assess paint protection on steel used in the construction.

The building layout did not completely correlate with the initial fire safety certificate. The report noted: "From our searches with Westmeath Fire Service, it appears that a revised fire safety certificate was not obtained for these alterations."

There was a failure to meet a 60-minute fire-resistance target within the structure supporting the first floor. The report noted "several of the steel sections are enclosed in only a single layer of 12.5 mm plasterboard, which will not achieve 60 minutes fire rating".

Cavity barriers were required in external wall cavities in line with internal fire rated walls/partitions. "Minor" issues included incorrect/missing exit signage. And cross-corridor doors at first-floor level opened against the direction of escape.

Vertical cavity barriers in cavity walls had been "omitted". Sections of the building were found to have inappropriate fire-stopping, incomplete/incorrect plasterboard partitions and issues with missing smoke seals and gaps on fire doors.

Exit signage corrections were noted as being in need of immediate essential works.

Belmayne Educate Together NS

Immediate works urged after engineers' survey


Engineers carried out a visual survey on the school on November 12, 2015, and returned on January 19 and 20, 2016, for a more comprehensive inspection. While the school buildings were checked, the engineers did not inspect the adjacent portable classrooms, as they were not part of their brief.

The engineers stated immediate essential works must be carried out at the school. These were that "stores" would be removed under the stairs and replaced with fire-rated separation to protect the escape routes, that soil/drainage pipes were installed to pass through the floor to protect the floor construction in the event of a fire, and that a fire damper/fire door must be added to the 'DCC Room' to protect an escape route.

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 had to be improved, but there was a "level of protection" provided already.

Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath, Greystones, Co Wicklow

Construction was 'not in compliance' with final design

An inspection took place in November 2015 and a more detailed one on January 12, 2016. The school has two separate wings and each has a different fire safety certificate as the buildings were not originally connected. A link building of "traditional build" was constructed between the two blocks at a later date.

The engineers stated they were only "instructed to inspect buildings A and B and not the interconnecting later build".

The construction was found "not in compliance" with the final design for which it received a fire safety certificate. The "main" issues within the school included that illuminated emergency signs were required.

The report noted "exit signage would have been required", while the first floor structure of block A and B needed to be updated to meet a 60-minute fire resistance standard.

This was, engineers found, not being provided with paint coverage within the structure or adequate plasterboard protection.

Engineers also found "no evidence" of fire collars or fire wraps within the first-floor structure.

Powerstown Educate Together NS, Dublin

'Problems related to old building knocked down last September'

II Schools 001.jpg
Powerstown Educate Together National School. Picture: Arthur Carron

An initial survey was carried out in November 2015. A more detailed inspection took place on January 19 and 20, 2016.

Improvements had to be made to inappropriate or non-existing fire-stopping, issues with non-taping or filling of joints in fire rated partitions had to be resolved and plasterboard must be fire-stopped above ceiling level.

There was also found to be issues with missing smoke seals and threshold gaps on fire doors and with maintaining escape routes clear of combustible goods.

The building did not comply fully with the 60-minute fire protection timeframe.

But the report stated, if an agreement could be made with the Fire Authority, it could be possible to achieve a reduced time rating of 30 minutes fire resistance due to the size of the school.

Partitions did "not appear to have been constructed to achieve the 60 minutes fire rating".

In a statement at the weekend, the school board of management said the audit related to an old school building demolished in September 2016.

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