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Arson policy has a dramatic impact

14 February, 2005

Policy of targeting high-risk schools for arson having a dramatic impact

A policy that gives new and high-risk schools dual intruder and smoke detection alarms has had a dramatic impact, says Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope says the Ministry of Education's risk management strategy focuses on the installation of dual intruder and smoke detection alarm security systems in high risk schools and in all new buildings costing $200,000 or more. Nearly 60% of schools now have full or partial coverage.

Since this policy was introduced in 1991 the cost of fire losses has decreased from $23 million to under $1 million for the last full financial year (2003/04).

"Fire losses for that year now equate to $1 per student. The last available comparable figure for the UK was $12 per student," he said. "By any measure it is proving a very successful approach to the on-going problem of school arson.

"Our current risk management strategy is the outcome of research. In essence, practically all fires are the result of arson outside school hours. Security systems are the focus of our prevention strategy, this coupled with a greater awareness by schools of risks in their school environment contribute to safer schools.

"Schools and their facilities are at the heart of many local communities. Arson is therefore deplorable. All the more so because when it strikes schools it potentially interrupts the learning of our young people. Therefore we take the issue very seriously indeed.

"However, the idea of security guards for New Zealand's 2500 schools would be a massive undertaking, the benefits of which could not be justified against the immense costs," said Mr Benson-Pope.


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