Dáil Éireann - Volume 387 - 15 February, 1989

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Fire Guidelines for Schools.

11. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education the fire guidelines laid down by her Department for (1) primary schools and (2) secondary schools; and if she has satisfied herself with these guidelines, particularly as they concern the safety of staff and students, evacuation procedures and fire drill.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Circular 18/81, which was issued to all first and second level schools in August 1981, sets out comprehensive guidelines for schools regarding routine fire precautions, checks of premises to be carried out after school hours, instructions in the event of fire and specimen fire notices for display in [343] schools. The circular emphasises the need for regular fire drills and gives detailed instructions as to the evacuation procedures to be carried out. I am arranging to have a copy of the relevant circular made available in the Dáil Library.

Just yesterday my colleague, Deputy Flynn, brought out a code of practice for the management of fire safety in places of assembly. It will embrace also many of the points I have made in that circular.

Mr. Deenihan: I accept that there are regulations in place but is the Minister satisfied that some of our school buildings are not fire hazards? Even though these regulations are in place, if a fire occurred drills would be useless because it is not possible to evacuate the buildings quickly. I can instance certain cases where the authorities involved have pointed out that if there was a fire in their schools they could not evacuate the buildings in time and people would be injured. I believe the Minister should review the state of the school buildings rather than review the regulations. The regulations are fine so long as the buildings are right but the problem relates to buildings where the regulations cannot be enforced.

An Ceann Comhairle: I want to help the Deputy to elicit information; let us have questions please.

Mr. Deenihan: I should like the Minister to carry out a review of the buildings to ensure that these regulations can be operated within them. The information I have——

An Ceann Comhairle: This is a very long question. I think the Deputy has made his point adequately.

Mrs. O'Rourke: The question I was asked related to the fire regulations laid down by my Department for primary and secondary schools. That is the question I answered but I have no objection to answering what the Deputy has put to me. If the Deputy has a particular case [344] in mind and does not want to mention it publicly, if he gives me the details privately I will have the matter addresssed. I have to say that any time a report from a fire officer is received in the Department we attend to it as quickly as possible and naturally the prime reason the Department respond quickly is to ensure the safety of the children. I know what Deputy Deenihan said was said in good faith and because of his sense of commitment but I caution him to be wary about creating wholesale scares about schools. The Deputy asked me about the fire regulations and I replied to that question but if he has a particular case in mind he should give me the details. In any instance where fire officers reports are submitted we will certainly attend to them.

Mr. Deenihan: I asked the Minister about the guidelines but I also asked her if she was satisfied that the guidelines are sufficient. I do not want to create any false alarms but I will tell her in private of the schools which, because of our outdated buildings are certainly fire hazards.

Mr. Boylan: Is the Minister not aware that there are fire hazards in many rural schools everyday of the week because of the reduction in teacher numbers? Children are cramped into school rooms——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is injecting new matter into this question.

Mr. Boylan: It has to do with fire hazards.

An Ceann Comhairle: I thought the Deputy had a relevant question to ask but obviously he has not.

Mr. Boylan: I am asking the Minister if she is aware that the passageways in schools are being used because teachers do not have room for all their students in school rooms which are not designed for the numbers they are catering for.

Mrs. O'Rourke: It is ridiculous to [345] assert that that is leading to fire hazards. I totally refute that assertion.

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 12.

Mr. Boylan: It is true; the Minister does not have the facts.

Mrs. O'Rourke: I have all the facts.

Mr. Boylan: I will bring the Minister to the schools concerned.

Mrs. O'Rourke: I will go on my own, thank you.

Mr. M. Higgins: And have a cup of tea.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Yes, I will and maybe something else.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. F. Fahey): There is plenty of tea in Galway.