Essex fire crews prepare for worst case scenario at Felsted Preparatory School

ESSEX County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) were out in force on Tuesday night to tackle a fire at Felsted Preparatory School — but it was all pretend!

Seven pumps, one aerial ladder unit and one control unit, as well as 45 firefighters, descended on the school at 7pm as part of a training exercise to prepare for the worst case scenario.

The situation was a fire on the ground floor of the building which houses 60 boarders, up to 100 day students and four families. Fire crews were briefed to extinguish the ‘flames’ before ventilating the building and searching for casualties.

Fortunately for the dummies placed around the school, the fire service responded efficiently to rescue them from upstairs windows and ground floor rooms.

Deputy headteacher Chris Townsend said: “This kind of exercise is crucial to make sure we understand our procedures and the fire service understand our building.

“School House is the biggest and oldest building making it the most difficult to evacuate and to tackle a fire within it if one were to ever break out.

“At any one time there could be 60 students sleeping in there and by doing this we are giving them the best chance of survival in the result of a fire.”

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ECFRS’ assistant divisional officer for Uttlesford and Braintree Ian Adams said: “The initial evacuation of students from the building went really well. We are running through all the procedures as if this were a major fire.”

After a successful exercise, Mr Adams went on to say: “We want to try to stop fires from happening with a good working relationship through workplace fire safety and management systems.

“We try to put a good fire evacuation protocol in place so all the children, staff and visitors are safe at all times.

“Fortunately for us the team at Felsted Prep are willing to listen and adapt their plans and safety is of the upmost priority to them.

“We will have a meeting after this exercise and another in a couple of weeks so we can decide what went well and what could be changed to make things run smoothly.”

The exercise has been a year and a half in the making and with the School House being refurbished ECFRS saw a window of opportunity present itself.

“This was the ideal time for us as part of the building is being refurbished and provides the opportunity to test our procedures in a live area,” added Mr Adams.

As the students returned to the 143-year-old building, only the work of Dunmow, Braintree, Weathersfield, Ingatestone, Chelmsford, Leaden Roding, and Thaxted fire services will hide the scars from the ‘fire’ that took hold on that night.