The Westgate School first opened its doors in 1958 and now serves a wide geographical area to the west of Slough in Berkshire. It is currently expanding its student numbers and by 2014 it will deliver high quality comprehensive education to over 1,000 11-19 year olds. The Westgate School has levels of achievement above the average for all schools nationally.
A policy of inclusivity is demonstrated through its excellence in care, guidance, support and personal development. It is also the designated school in its vicinity for students with physical disabilities who are integrated in mainstream education.
Building regulations state that any non-domestic structure with more than one storey must provide a safe area of refuge for any person who cannot easily use fire escapes, lifts and stairs. Maureen Mallinson, Business Manager at The Westgate School, explains, ‘Our disabled students are often taught in first floor classrooms. Therefore, as some of them are unable to be removed from their custom-built wheelchairs, in the event of a fire or other emergency they have to congregate in one of three designated refuge areas while the emergency services configure an appropriate evacuation strategy.’
In an emergency situation, staff and other responsible adults need to know the exact location of the disabled students. This information needs to be available quickly so that relevant action can be taken. Obviously, this can be a highly distressing situation, so it is vital that the students have access to a system that is both simple and effective.
Cooper Security recommended local security partner, DA Security Systems, to install a personal alarm system. The company’s managing director, Lee Upton, comments, ‘This was a very specific set of circumstances that required a best-in-class solution. We have worked closely with Cooper Security for a number of years and the quality of their products is only matched by their service and support. I was confident that the company would be able to offer something suitable.’
After arranging a meeting, Luke Turton, security systems specialist at Cooper Security, visited the site and offered his recommendations. As a result, all disabled students who are unable to use the lift in the event of an emergency situation have now been issued with either a Cooper Security 701r pendant or a 702r ‘watch’ style narrow band FM radio transmitter, depending on their preference, which are worn during school hours. Designed to be robust and reliable, these transmitters are powered by a lithium manganese dioxide battery, which is designed to give at least 20,000 operating cycles, or three years of life if used twice per day.
Asked how the system works, Turton responds, ‘When activated an alert is sent to a Cooper Security 768r radio receiver that is integrated with a paging system. This, in turn, sends a message to all members of staff, who are then able to pinpoint the exact location of the student. A specially installed light in the area goes green when the message has been successfully sent, in order to reassure the student at what can be a stressful time.’
The highly secure 768r narrow band receiver enables users to see at a glance the status of up to eight transmitters and by adding the company’s 769 expanders that figure can rise up to 32 transmitters. In addition DA Security installed dedicated cameras in refuge areas, which transmit images to a central monitor placed at the main reception area – essential as an indicator to the emergency services as to the position of students located on the first floor
The installation of the new system was straightforward and DA Security’s team were able to do the work during the summer holidays so as to avoid any disruption to The Westgate School’s day-to-day activities. Commenting on the installation process, Lee Upton states, ‘Functionality and flexibility are built into the design of Cooper Security’s products, which always helps. Although this project was complicated in places, Cooper Security’s Technical Support team – many of which have been installers themselves – were always on hand to answer any questions that we had.’
Staff and students alike have warmly welcomed the system and during regular evacuation practice sessions it has proven to be effective, providing peace of mind for all concerned. The final word goes to The Westgate School’s Maureen Mallinson, who concludes, ‘Finding a solution that would meet all our needs was proving difficult until Lee recommended Cooper Security. The products are incredibly user friendly and I’m confident that in the event of an emergency they will help ensure the safety of our disabled students.’