Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
In 2017, there were no less that 334 fire-related deaths in the UK, including the tragic 71 who lost their lives in the Grenfell disaster. Why then, do climate-strike schools think it is clever, appropriate even, to start setting off fire detection and alarm systems to teach children about global warming?
Since the passing of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which mandated all employees to have ‘adequate fire safety training‘ and to be able to identify those ‘who may be especially at risk‘ in the event of a fire, schools have redoubled their efforts in ensuring that all schoolchildren are educated on fire prevention and escape. In 2011, the Coalition government launched a review into the Fire Kills Fire Safety Education Programme, highlighting the fact that fire is one of the leading causes of ‘accidental injury and death amongst children‘ in the UK.
This is why the London Fire Brigade advertise and carry out age-appropriate fire safety programmes in over 1000 schools to over 100,000 pupils annually. Their work, which includes educating about common fire hazards, how to call 999, how to make an escape plan, and the consequences of hoax-calling the emergency services, is crucial in upholding our nation’s ability to raise the next generation to be competent and fire-safe.
School buildings are also at risk of fire, and staff in schools affected by fire damage consistently say that measures put in place in their institutions prior to the incidents were not sufficient to ‘prevent the fires from spreading quickly‘. Just this week, the Guardian found that two thirds of English schools have poor fire protection, promoting the suggestion that sprinklers should be a mandatory presence in all schools.
Current regulatory law says that a school’s fire alarm system must be ‘adequately maintained‘, with recommendation that an inspection takes place by a competent person every six months and fire alarm testing should take place every term to prepare all people commonly inside the institution for a fire scenario.
Why then, have the National Education Union, a group which represents the majority of teachers and education professionals in the UK, decided to endorse the arbitrary, self-aggrandising, and frankly life-endangering move by Doncaster Council to encourage their schools to set off their fire alarms in the name of climate strikes?
How ironic that the union supposedly ‘committed to making the education sector a great place to work and a great place to learn‘ are willing to demean the importance of fire safety to the most vulnerable in our society and co-opt the purpose of essential life-saving lessons in order to simply make a headline. If the sound of a fire alarm becomes commonplace for a child, and they learn to associate it with the excitement of a strike day, the next time it sounds they may not be prepared.
This callous act of long-term damage to the health and safety of this nation’s children beats even the mindless attempt by Extinction Rebellion to shut down Heathrow Airport by illegally flying drones in the close vicinity of aircrafts. Midair collision with an object is life-threateningly dangerous, as exemplified by the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 in January 2009, in which a collision with flock of Canada geese forced Captain Chesley Sullenberger to perform an extraordinary landing in the Hudson River.
Climate strikers have gone too far. First they targeted international travellers and now they are targeting children. It is time to tell Extinction Rebellion and their abetting schools and local governments that enough is enough, and that meddling in the fire safety education of children will not be tolerated.