A Fathers Day I will never forget! :)

I am working today, which may come as a surprise to you; because usually I don’t work on a Sunday.  I had arranged to work today, because for the kids I work with, always find Fathers Day a really hard day to cope with. My shift started as normal at half 6 with Handover. (For those of you who don’t know what Handover is, it is where the previous shift, update colleges coming on duty, with the events of the previous shift. IE: If one of the kids was unwell etc) After Handover, we went to wake the kids up. For this, we normally knock on their bedroom door, then go in, open the curtains and gently nudge the sleeping boy, to wake him up. One of the boys on my unit wasn’t too well when I woke him up and was quite warm. So I told him to stay in bed and I will come back in a few minutes, with a thermometer and take his temperature. (This is done in the ear)

Once I had woken up the remaining boys, I went back to our poorly boarder and took his temperature. He was warm, so I decided to give him Calpol and leave him in bed, with 30 minute obs. My next job was drugs round, which is a job that takes around half a hour to complete. Most of the boys shower ion the morning, so I was able to collar them coming to or from the bathrooms and give them their meds. By the time I finished meds, I was now late for breakfast. (That is nothing new, I am always late for Breakfast!) I always eat breakfast with the kids and on weekends, a member of Care Staff makes a cooked breakfast for the boys. (Sausage, Bacon, fried Egg, cooked Mushrooms, cooked Tomatoes etc) there is also cereals, yogurts, toast etc available too) Plus we also have a large metal pot of tea and coffee and fruit juice available.

One of the boys suddenly got up and left the room, before I could say anything. He came back in with a carrier bag and put it at the side of my cup and saucer. I opened the bag and was shocked about the contents. The boys had filled the bag with cards and there was also a box set of smellies. (Deodorant, shower gel and shaving gel) One of the boys went behind the side board and bought out a big photo frame, which had a photo of the boys, the staff and I, sat on the sofa in the unit lounge. The boys had clubbed together and had the phoro enlarged and put in a frame for me.

I was speechless, I didn’t know what to say. The kids had never done anything like this for me before and I was totally flabbergasted! Of course, I thanked the kids emencely for the kindness they had shown me. One of the boys, who I had helped on Friday night, (after more or less being rejected by his family for coming out as gay.) I stayed with him all night, as he was clearly in crisis and needed my support to get him through it – and he did get through it and was OK) said:

To us boarders, Kyle is the next nearest thing we have to a dad. He’s always there for us and knows what to say to help us, what ever it is we are going through.

Each of them got a hug from me and were thanks individually and as a group. After breakfast, the boys signed out for activities. I stayed on the unit as usual and got some paperwork done and kept nipping in and out looking after our poorly boarder. I also took him the games console and TV on a trolley, which we keep in the Play Specialist’s cupboard, for when boarders are poorly or  when kids have family visit. There is a games console in the communal lounge too.

After Lunch, (which on a Sunday, the Caterers do a Roast) the boys went to rehearsals for the school show, which is at the end of term. It meant I could see our kids, as they had come in with Sam. I also got the cards and gifts from our boys as well. (I got more smellies, a iTunes Gift Card and a car cleaning set for my Morris Minor. (Yes I know sad! I like my car tho) Now back on the unit and buried in paperwork, while the kids rehearse, I have managed to tell you why this has been the nicest Father’s day yet! The boarder who was unwell this morning, is feeling a bit better and is still on the unit, but is now well enough to of got dressed and is sitting in the lounge on the other games console. (Kids who are unwell are usually looked after on their unit, unless they are very poorly, which is when they are transferred to Sick Bay upstairs.)

BGT: Go Flakefleet School!

So, I have been catching up on Britain’s Got Talent, as I ended up working nights all weekend, so I have missed watching it. Thanks to Sky + I have recorded it and have been catching up.

I have followed Flakefleet Primary School from Fleetwood Lancs, through the entire competition and I think they should win. They are showing the nation that education can be fun and that choirs are not all boring and stereotypical. I can’t wait for the final on Sunday and who knows….. Maybe I can convince our kids to enter next year! (You never know!)

 

When Kids Go Missing

Let me start this post, by saying that at our school, we have robust procedures that are followed, when ever a pupil in our care goes missing. However, there is not enough awareness of runaways and why they do it and I hope this post will help to give an incite into why kids runaway and as a school, how we deal with such issues.

Young People go missing for several reasons. Sometimes an argument causes youngsters to run away, sometimes it can be caused by bullying, sometimes it’s an act of rebellion and sometimes, kids just go missing for the thrill of it. When any of the kids in our care go missing, We as a school, have a “duty of care” and part of that duty, it is paramount that we act quickly and professionally and that the boy in question is found quickly.

So what do we do when one of our Young People go missing?

The 1st thing we do, is to do an extensive search of the school grounds, including the unit the young person is on and the main school as needed. We also put an alert out to all staff via staff radios. If a search brings no results, we ask the Boarders on his the unit, if they had seen the boarder in question. (Sometimes telling us about a den in the grounds or somewhere the boarders go when they want to be along, helps us to find the young person.) We also will try the young person’s mobile to make contact. (Each Unit has a list of young people’s mobile numbers.

If that doesn’t bring any results, I will get a phone call. I could be out with the kids or in the bath, but it means I need to get over to school ASAP. I will then be handed information about what has happened, at what time and those involved. Next, I call the Police (999)  and report the young person as missing. Meanwhile staff will search the Young Person’s room, to see if they have left any clues to where they are going. Meanwhile, I will go to Sam’s office and view the CCTV footage, to see which way the young person left the site and which direction he went.  I then have the wonderful job of phoning the boy in question’s Parents and informing them that their son is missing and  we have the Police out looking for him. I also have to contact Karen (our Head Teacher) and brief her. I then will ring the boy’s Social Worker (or the Emergency Duty Team if in the evening or at weekends or a Bank Holiday)

The Police will search his room, as well as speaking to pupils and staff, look at the CCTV and  circulate the information about the boy in question.  Meanwhile a spare member of staff will take the school car and drive around the local area. Sometimes it’s possible to find the boy in question, quite easily. I also will go through the browsing history on the unit PC’s as sometimes that gives us a clue on where they may have gone. I can get this from the Server for the networked PC’s in J Block,  which keeps a log of EVERY site they visit, even if they think they can be crafty and delete the browsing history on the PC. (The server is actually in the Server Room next to my office, so I can get to it quite easily if needed. Our Network interfaces the main school network and uses Community Connect. It means that the kids can access their files from school, via the same network.

Sometimes the Police bring the Young Person back and sometimes they come back on their own. When they return, a member of staff will call me and I will come back over to school. (Unless I am working, as I will already be on site.  A member of staff will remain with the boy in question, while I undertake a “return interview”. The return interview is not about telling the boy off for going missing. Instead it is about establishing why he went missing and how we can further support him. Of course, I will mention how dangerous going missing is. I remind the boy in question that he can come to me or any member of staff, if something is bothering them. If he wants to talk to me and I am not on shift, he can write a note and ask a member of staff to put it in my pigeon hole in the post room, on the ground floor of J Block; or use the computers on the units and send me a email. (Above the computers on the units is a poster, which has my work email address on it.) When I am back on shift, I will happily have a chat over a cup of tea. Of course, if one of the boys is distressed, I can be called and I will happily drive over to school. (In my Morris Minor of course!)

Finally, I have alot of paperwork to do when a boy goes missing, which is placed in his file, which is locked in the unit office filing cabinet.

When a boy is offsite, our staff are trained not to give chase. As stated above, a member of staff will drive round to try and locate the boy in question, while the group Leader will use their school mobile, to phone me. The police will be involved, if the boy in question is not found quickly and usual procedures will be followed.

I have only ever had to deal with a runaway once in all the time I have worked for the school. However, I think it is something that should be highlighted and that was why I wrote this article.

Toby’s Bathroom

 I have been working on getting a bathroom setup for Toby, who we foster. Toby has had a kidney transplant and needs help with his personal care. So I have been converting a box room, into a special bathroom, which also doubles as a extra bathroom for our kids.

First is the toilet. The toilet is a close coupled wc, which has been positioned so that either myself or Kyle can stand either side of the toilet. He also has a rail, so if he wants to stand and do the other end, he can hold the rail while one of us supports him to stand. We were going to put a folding rail in, but it would get in the way. (Especially Kyle is a larger lad) We decided not to install a loo roll holder, as the other boys don’t really use the loo and anyway, the roll holder would be too far from the wall.

At the side of the loo, is the draws with Toby’s supplies. (Catheter Bags, wipes, gloves, disposable aprons etc)

The sink has a mixer tap, which is the lever type. This makes it easier for Toby to wash his hands. There is now a shaver socket as well, which Toby can use when he is older, if he decides to dry shave. (The control switch for the shaver socket and the extractor fan are mounted above the outside of the door. The light switch is also outside the door. The walls are painted with white tiles that are half way up the wall. The top frieze has shell effects, which are cool.

The floor is cushioned Lino, which Toby chose. He chose Lino that looks like floor tiles and he chose the colour black, as it is his favorite.

The bathroom has spot lights, which are recessed in the ceiling and were a pain to install. (Our Electrician did that) So the bathroom is bright! The door opens outwards and also has a safety lock, which can be released with a 20 pence piece from outside.

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We’ve installed both a bath and a shower, as the kids like both. We can wheel in a hoist to get Toby in and out the bath and one of us can sit behind him in a little recess, behind the bath. There is a stabilizer underneath the bath, which controls the temperature of the water to the bath and the shower.

The shower is not a mixer shower connected to the taps on the bath. It has it’s own supply from under the bath and goes up a channel in the wall. The shower has a riser rail and is also thermostatic. The shower screen has toughened glass for safety. The bottom of the bath is also non slip for safety.

The bathroom is big enough, so we can wheel in the mobile hoist and using a sling, we can safely lift Toby in and out the bath, using a hoist. We were going to install a track hoist from his bedroom, across the hall and into the bathroom,  However, that would be major work and may of needed the joists strengthening. Not only is this costly, but Josh would have needed to move out his attic bedroom while we do the works. Plus we would of had to rip up his bedroom floor and made a massive mess.

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Over this weekend, our Electrician is installing an alarm cord by the bath and one by the toilet too. This project cost about £2,500 to do. I did most of the labour and out of that cost, it includes the labour and parts for the Electrician.

Now Toby has a adapted bathroom which meets his needs.  Kyle and I are proud of what we have built for Toby. He finally has a bathroom that was purpose built around his needs. We struggled to care for him in the current kids bathroom, as it is smaller and meant that it was harder to help him. For instance, we could not get either side of the toilet so we had to stand in front of him to lift him on and off the loo. The bath was not suitable for him, because we could not get the mobile hoist into the bathroom

Most of the time, he was getting strip washes in his bedroom, with a bath 2 – 3 times a week. During the day, he was having to use the downstairs toilet, (which he still uses) as it is adapted already.  At night, he was using a bottle or a commode. That was no quality of life for a 9 yo, so we decided the junk room needed to be converted to a bathroom. Now Toby can have baths safely, he no longer needs his bottle or the commode and has a bathroom that was designed with Toby in mind.

One Very Angry Head Of Care!!!!

Update: One of the 2 boys was suspended from school for 2 weeks, while the other was given 2 weeks detention, put on report and was grounded for 2 weeks.

I am not impressed at all tonight and am rather disappointed. I had a call at 7.30 this evening, after one of the staff on Birds, called to tell me that 2 boys, (both 9) had been bought back by the Police, after smashing a window on a house down the road.

Not only had they both been involved in the incident, they had also snuck off school grounds, without gaining permission from their Unit House Parent. By doing so, they could of put themselves in danger, as they are not allowed off site normally, unless with a member of staff.

As for breaking someone’s window, words do not even come close to how disappointed and how angry I am with both of them. The Police wanted to know why they broke the window and were taken into the Quiet Room for this, with me as an Appropriate Adult. After getting a right telling off from the Police, they were told to sit outside the Unit Office and wait for me to finish speaking with the Police Officers. Both got away with a simple Police Caution.

Once finished with the Police, the 2 boys were taken to the Unit Office, where they did get a good grilling. I told them that they are in the biggest trouble yet and that this could have serious repercussions, which may result in the pair of them being expelled from our school. However, this is not up to me and is up to my boss Karen, who is Head Teacher at our school. The boys knew it was serious when they were told to address me as “Mr McLaughlin” instead of Kyle. If one of the kids are told to address me as Mr. McLaughlin out of school hours, they know they are in BIG Trouble.

The behavior they display outside of our school does have an effect on the school’s reputation in the community. Breaking a window for the fun of it, which is what the pair said was the reason they broke the window and because they said they were board, is not acceptable behavior. I have grounded the pair of them, but that does not get them off the hook. I have said that the pair of them must be in line sight of a member of staff at all times, (Except for when they use the toilet, are taking a bath or are in bed) their pocket money is being docked, to pay for the repair to the window and tomorrow, the pair of them will be going in the school car, to visit the old lady, (who had her window broken) to apologize.

People look at me and think “Kyle is a right pushover”. The Chubby Ginger bloke who wears a kilt to work. But I can be serious and when needed, I can exert my authority when needed, so when something like this happens, heaven help you!

I sent my handy hubby (Sam) round to the old lady’s house, where he has boarded up the window for her and removed the shards of glass. She was very thankful for this and I also went down to see her, to let her know that the 2 boys that broke her window are NOT getting off lightly. She was very nice and made me a cup of tea. She was telling us about the school and how different it was in the 1940s. It was interesting to see some really old photos.

I hope that such severe punishment, (which I had discussed with Karen over the phone) will make them think about what they have done and will remind them that their actions have consequences. If they had of been 10 years old, they could of been arrested and put in front of a Magistrate on Tuesday morning. They would not be able to hide behind me or the school (not that I would let them, as criminal damage is serious) and would more than likely be expelled there and then. They also know I had to make a phone call to both of their parents, to tell them what their boys had been up to and to reassure them that this is not being taken lightly and that their bad behavior is serious enough to warrant suspension or expulsion, which then would result in their care being handed back to their parents. Also I shall be speaking to both of their Social Workers on Tuesday about this. (By then, I will know the fate of the pair and if they will be allowed to remain at school, with punishments being given between me and Karen.)

On a care side of things, I can dish out punishment and if instructed to by Karen, I will. This could include restrictions on leaving the building, (J Block) being made to go to bed early or given community service on the school grounds, while being supervised by a member of staff. (IE: Litter picking, extra chores etc) While Karen may impose punishments such as: Being on Report, (Having to report to a member of staff at certain points in the day and having that member of staff sign a sheet, if they have attended and have behaved) and detentions \ after school detentions.

Bottom line, what they did was unacceptable and school is taking this seriously. For tonight, they have had a grilling from me and sent to bed early. I have had to write a report and speak to members of staff about this incident. (None of the members of staff I have spoken to, recall being asked to leave the school grounds.) Even if they did, they would of clearly been told no – they may not leave the school grounds unaccompanied.

So thanks to that, Family Night got wrecked, as I was baking with the kids, when I got called into work. But that’s part and parcel of the job. It may of been my day off, but in this job, but when I get that call, I always have to answer.

Rooftop Emergency: Pupil Threatens to Jump!

Update: The Year 9 Pupil is now back at school and read me a special letter (he had written while in Hospital) at Friday afternoon assembly. I got a massive round of applause and I got a big hug off the lad too!

I was told that “I went above and beyond to help a Pupil in crisis” and in his hour of need, I listened to him, I supported him all the way through it, and I showed him that I care, not because I am paid to, but because I want to care and that I care about each and every Pupil, no matter if they are naughty or nice, if they give me verbal abuse or put pins on my chair. Finally as stated by our Head Teacher, I have a heart of gold and that shines a beacon of light, which gives comfort to our pupils. They know they are not alone and what ever they are going through, they don’t have to go through it alone. Staff are always there to listen, to help pupils work through what ever it is that is bothering them and find a solution to that problem. Our school motto is “if you can’t help yourself, there will always someone will always help you”, which is very true.

The School, the staff and pupils are very lucky to have someone like me and I in turn, am very lucky to work at such a wonderful school, full of kids who are special, not because they have special needs, but because they are very special kids.

 

I have just managed to get home, I am very tired and honestly, rather disappointed. Right, lemme go to the beginning and explain what happened…

One of the pupils in my school, suffered a “Psychotic Episode”. (psychosis is where one hears, sees or feels things or have thoughts that someone is going to harm them.) This Year 9 Pupil, (who I cannot name for legal reasons) climbed onto the roof of the Gym in D Block. I was first alerted by someone in the office, who spotted someone on the roof of the Gym. Of course I followed emergency procedures and used my radio to put out an urgent message to the office. I used my mobile in the meantime, to phone the Fire Brigade. Sam was able to get me up onto the flat roof of C Block, (via a access door in B Block) which is not as high as D Block, so I could speak to him and try to defuse the situation. By now, me on the rooftop drama had got half the school’s attention and unfortunately, we ended up with a crowd on the playground, even though they were told to  stay back.

To cut a long story short, through me talking to the pupil in question and talk him down. I told the Police that I know the lad better than anyone and I knew I could get him to come down with a little time and patience.  It took 2 and a half hours to talk him down. With assistance from Durham Fire and Rescue, we got the lad down off the roof and into an ambulance. I went with him to the Hospital, where we sat for a staggering 10 hours! I am sorry, but for someone in crisis, that is far too long to be sat in A&E and the waiting room was not the best or appropriate place to spend half the time,  as he was very anxious. Finally, Mental Health Liaison came to see us and he is now in the care of  the Hospital.

More money needs to be invested in Mental Health services. I know A&E is busy, I get there are lots of very sick people in the department, but Mental Health crisis should not be pushed down the queue. People who are poorly because of mental health, should not have to wait more than 2 hours to see a Mental Health Professional in A&E. Tomorrow, I am going to write to my MP, because the stigma with mental health needs to stop and better care needs to be out there and not just a “postcode lottery”.

I went above and beyond for a pupil and I didn’t need to do so. I reached out to someone who was  in a crisis. In this job, you have to wear many hats. I’m not just the Head of Care, I am a friend the kids can always come to when they are feeling down. The kids know my office door is always open for a private chat and if I am not at work, they know they can turn to any member of staff for help. If needed, I can always be called and I will come into work to help a young person, regardless if it’s 3:30pm on a Sunday afternoon or 3:30 am on a Wednesday morning.

The kids know they can talk to me and they know if they want one, a hug is always something I am willing to give. From kids who are homesick and miss mum and dad, to kids who feel they are struggling to cope, I am here to listen and I will not judge them or tell them what to do. I will always explore ways to resolve the problem and they know that they can confide in me. They also know when I have a “legal duty” to speak to break confidentiality, if they or someone else may be in danger. However, I always make sure that I explain why I have to break confidentiality and will always continue to support them through this process.

Today was incident to reflect on and made me think that as a school, we need to be more eagle eyed to spot when things are getting out of hand and to to intervene. I am not blaming anyone at school, but we need to work harder to prevent something like this happening again.

I was always taught by my mum to “not dwell on the what if’s) and this is the same when you think about today. If we had of got this pupil in to see the School Doctor, before a roof top drama started, the outcome would of been the same. The same outcome regardless, would of been a trip to A&E, as we cannot keep a young person safe from himself or keep other people in school safe. A&E was the appropriate place for him to receive help and when he comes out of hospital, he will be welcomed back to school, with no bad feelings and he will not be told off. It is not the way things are done at our school!

I have been told he will get after care and he will get plenty of help in school as well. All his friends and the staff just want the best for him and I think that he is very lucky to have so many people who care about him.

Right, time for bed, I am back at work tomorrow! G’nite 🙂

When The Kids Shock You With Their Talents!

On Friday, at our weekly £It’s The Weekend Party,” (Which we do in the Sports Hall and is Karaoke and Disco, which is very popular with the kids) a lad, who was placed at our school just before the Easter Break, shocked me, shocked Sam and shocked the other kids with his voice. The lad I am talking about is 14 and is very shy. However, he decided to sing on Friday night, something Sam has never been requested to play.

He had requested to sing Nessun Dorma, which is by Luciano Pavarotti. It is a track that is very hard to sing and I got to give it to this lad, because he shocked everyone. The song is difficult as it was and on the last part, where he sings the line

Dilegua, oh notte!  Tramontate, stelle! Tramontate, stelle! All’alba vincerò! Vincerà! Vincerò!

shocked everyone, as the last part you really need to hold the note for quite a while. When he sang the final Vincerò! he held the last note, which caused me to drop my drink. I have not seen a child be able to sing like this, ever! It was a right shock and he got a standing ovation from the care staff and the other kids. Aparently he was taught to sing like this by his Grandad. It’s amazing!

Meanwhile, I have moved to a temporary office, while the roof in J Block is repaired. (As you will already know, my office is on the top floor of the building) So now I am in a Portakabin for the next few weeks, while the roof is repaired and the top floor offices are repainted and re-carpeted, after water ingress, due to the leaking roof.  It will do for now. Our 2 floor Portakabin is behind J Block at the moment and you can see the Laundry and Boiler House in the background. I must also thank Sam for helping us move everything out. Our Portakabin may be smaller and we have no kitchen for making brews, (we have to do that from the General Care Office) but at least it’s water tight and at least we have loos!

I got rather peeved this afternoon, when I get a call from one of the Units, as a parent had turned up and decided she wanted her son to come home.  However she knows he can’t as there is a Care Order.

A care order is given by a court. It allows a council to take a child into care. Under the Children Act 1989 a council can apply for a care order if it believes a child is suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm.

The court decides if the child can be taken into care.

Care orders last until:

  • the child’s 18th birthday
  • an order is made giving parental responsibility to another person – eg through adoption or special guardianship
  • the court lifts the order (this is called ‘discharging’ the order)

This boarder in question, has been with us for a couple of  years now.

The Care Order means by law, we are responsible for the care of this child. His mum turning up just made matters worse, so I got a call to come and deal with it. (As I am on Call this all of this weekend) Thankfully her son didn’t get to hear all the commotion or he would of ended up being very upset.

The mother of this child does not know when to keep her mouth shut and all I got was verbal abuse. I know the kids sometimes tell me to F*** off, but this woman’s every sentence had the F word in it.  I had had enough and asked her to leave. Of course she refused, so I asked her again and got told where to stick it. So I pulled out my phone and I called the Police. (999) She got arrested for breaching the peace and more than likely will be locked up until tomorrow. As for the boarder in question, I did speak to him and let him know what had happened. He wasn’t impressed.

While it’s dry, I am heading out to the garden and play footie with our boys.

Shift From Hell!!! – Thanks Storm Gareth!

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Mother Nature was well and truly on her monthly last night!

Last night was a very tricky and interesting shift. I’ve had a few shifts, where things go wrong, but not on this level.

I was on a cover shift last night, as the Unit Manager got stuck due to the bad weather. By about 10pm, it was very windy, as Storm Gareth took hold. There was not much we could do but get everyone to bed and  batten down the hatches. By midnight, the wind was very very strong and caused a power cut.

Normally, Power cuts do not cause a problem at work, as J Block has it’s own pair of Diesel Generators on the roof of the building and the main school have their own set of generators in-between D and J Block, on the lower ground floor. In the event of a voltage drop, the generators are supposed to kick in and take over the supply, before a blackout occurs. In our case, obviously not! For some reason, the automated transfer did not happen and I had to call home and get Sam, as the whole building lost power. At the time the power had failed, I was hoisting one of the disabled kids from the bathroom to his bedroom.

None of the kids were put in danger by the power failure, as we were able to put any critical equipment onto battery power, while Sam manually switched us across to the emergency power. The Care Call System also has battery backups and we were able to monitor the kids as normal.

So once the power was back on and I could get on and do some work on the computer, things seemed to get going well. A couple of hours past, and then… The fire alarm went off. on Continuous “Evacuate” signal.

FYI: The Fire Alarm has 2 separate alarm tones. Intermittent Wailing (Fire elsewhere in the building) and Continuous Wailing. (Evacuate) Intermittent wailing sounds on for 5 seconds and then stays off for 2 seconds and then repeats. Evacuate is a continuous long tone. Both are extremely loud!

So I followed the School’s Residential Block Fire Procedures and sent someone to go to the Fire Repeater Panel, find out where the fire alarm has been activated from and then radio through the information.

As a serious developing emergency was ongoing, it was apparent that the alarm, (which we had no idea was a false alarm) was coming from the Generator Plant on the roof. This now leaves me with making a hard decision, Evacuate or not. I decided that partial evacuation was the safest option and ordered all available staff to scramble to the 3rd floor to assist with evacuation. I then, (as per procedure) telephoned the Head to brief her on the ongoing drama. I also dialled 999 and called for the Fire Brigade.

We evacuated as many kids as we could on beds, using the Evacuation Lift and carried smaller children down the stairs. We evacuated everyone to the 2 units on the 2nd floor, while staff re-assured the kids on the other units that everything was OK and to stay in bed until told otherwise.

The Fire Brigade were on scene very quickly. The first thing they took care of, was the supply to the generators. Not being able to see to the roof and with the high winds, the Firemen used the internal stairs to the 4th floor and then used the access door to the roof.

Thankfully, it was a false alarm and the generators had not caught fire! Water ingress had got into the generator housing and into one of the smoke alarms. The water had set off the sensor, which then sent a urgent message to the Fire Alarm Panel. The system is setup, so that if a fire breaks out in either generator, it sends a immediate evacuate signal. A fire in the Generator plant is rare but could be deadly.

Sam was able to isolate the smoke alarm in question, while leaving the other 2 in tact. The Firemen were really helpful and helped us get the kids back to their units.

We finally stood down at 3.30am this morning and managed to get the kids back to bed. However, we had a lot to write in the kids log books, as well as the unit log books. I am glad when it was morning and I could handover to the morning staff.

I don’t know how Sam managed to do a full day at work, after only getting 2 hours sleep! (Luckily our live in carer at home, looked after our boys) or the kids on the units, who were rudely awoken by the fire alarm. However, it was a test of our emergency awareness and professionalism in such an emergency. (Even though we didn’t intend for this to happen.

I’ve been into work for a couple of hours today and was told that the kids felt reassured, by the way that we dealt with the situation and felt safe knowing we had everything in hand.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on site; we had a tree come down and flattened our old Portakabin, which is no longer used. (As it is not fit for purpose)

I hope I NEVER have a shift like this again… All HELL broke loose.

As for me, I got a hot date with the bath and a glass of Prosecco. Cheers! 🙂

How to Refill your School Indoor Pool and Prepare It for Use

In this guide, I will be walking you through the process of refilling and preparing your indoor pool for use. (Our pool at school had to be drained, while new LED lighting was installed) In this guide we will look at:

  • Making sure the pool surface is clean and surfaces are in a good working order
  • Pre-Checks in the Plant Room
  • Backwashing the Filters
  • Refilling the pool
  • Shocking the water with Chemicals and Checking the PH of your pool
  • Backwashing the Filter (Again)
  • Starting up the Heating

1. Making sure the pool surface is clean and in good working order

As we had workmen working on the lighting, the pool has to be checked to make sure that the surface is clean and to check the integrity of the tiles. Thankfully, I laid sheets down on the bottom of the pool, which caught most of the dust and objects, which dropped while the Electricians were working. I also checked the tiles, to make sure none had come loose or broken.

2. Pre-Checks in the Plant Room

I then went to the Plant Room, so that I could open the inspection hole on the top of the pump and allowed me to pour neat chlorine in, to make sure that if anything was growing got killed off right away.

3. Back Wash The Filters 

Backwashing the filter allows us to drain any remaining gunk out the filter. To do this, make sure the drain cock is still in the open position and the return valve is in the closed position. Using the inspection cover, put a hosepipe in and run at full pressure. Now turn the dial on the pump to Backwash and run for a few minutes. Once done, switch off the water, open the pool return cock and close the drain cock.  Finally, turn the pump to the off position.

4. Refilling The Pool

Usually refilling the pool takes ages, as most schools use a normal hose connected to the tap at mains pressure. Not us! I connected a large diameter hose to the “Wet Riser“, thus giving us a high pressure water supply. It takes me few days to fill the pool from the wet riser.

5. Shocking the water witch chemicals \ Checking the PH Levels

I use liquid chemicals to shock the pool. I use a machine that doses it through the filter. (Which does this through the inspection chamber on the pump) Once dosed, use your PH Kit to check the PH of the water. (It should be PH 7 – PH 7 and a half.) If your pool is too acidic, add Bicarbonate Of Soda mixed with water and test again)

Sam Says Safety First!

Always use cation when handling Chlorine. To protect yourself against accidental burns, wear Personal Protective Equipment. (Goggles, Thick Rubber Gloves, Protective Clothing, Thick Rubber Soled Shoes and a Face Mask) Always follow the instructions on the bottle and do not mix Chlorine with any other chemicals.

If you accidentally spill chlorine, use the hose to rinse it away make sure the area where the spillage has happened, is thoroughly rinsed. If you get chlorine on your skin, rinse under running water for 10 minutes and then attend Accident & Emergency at your nearest hospital. If you release a chlorine cloud by accident, evacuate the building, by sounding the fire alarm, then call 999 and ask for the Fire Brigade. State that there is a chlorine cloud and request assistance.

6. Backwashing the Filter (Again!)

You will need to backwash the filter again, just to make sure that anything in the pipework is flushed out. Close the pool return valve and open the drain cock. Run the filter in the “Backwash” position for 2 minutes. Now close the drain cock and open the pool return cock. You can now run the pump in it’s normal operating position.

7. Starting up the Heating

You now need to go and switch on the pool heating system. Ours is Gas, so I opened the gas valve, switched on the boiler isolation switch and watch to make sure the boiler ignites properly. For around a week, the pool will remain out of use, while I run the heating system constantly for a week. (To heat the water) I also put the pool skimmer baskets back and switched on the Air Handling Unit, giving our pool a bit of a tropical feel!

So that’s it, the pool has been drained, maintained and refilled! Swimming can resume by the end of next week.

How to Empty Your School Indoor Pool

Sometimes it’s essential that you completely drain your school’s indoor pool. In our case, the pool needs to be drained so that workmen can erect scaffolding, to replace the swimming pool lighting. This guide is not the same as an outdoor pool winter closing down procedure, as we will be completely emptying the pool of water. Winterising involves blowing out the return pipes and emptying the sand filter. Neither are needed in this case.

The first job is to use your pool net to remove any objects that may be in the pool. I would also recommend using your pool vac, to clean the bottom of the pool before we empty it. Next, I removed the baskets from the pool skimmers. removing the baskets isn’t mandatory but I removed them anyway. Our next thing to do is to work in the plant room, to physically drain as much of the water as possible. This uses the floor drain in the deep end of the pool.

OK, now we are in the Plant Room, where all the tech that keeps the pool in order is kept. Most pool Plant Rooms look a bit like the image below. It is the beating heart of the pool, cleaning and  maintaining the water, 24 hours a day. The Plant Room usually has the pump, the large sand filters, the heater and alot of pipework.

Swimming Pool Plant Room

Our first job is to shut down the heater. Depending how your system heats the water will depend on how you shut your heating system off. Ours is gas, so as well as switching off the heating system, I also switched off the gas isolation cock as well. As we are working on a indoor pool, which won’t be empty for long, (about a week) there is no need to drain down the boiler. Now we can get the pool emptied.

Now go to your pump and at the side of it, you need to close the valve to the return pipe for the pool. You will also need to open the drain valve for the pool as well. In our case, the swimming pool drain goes into the main drains, so we do not need to connect a hose.

Your pump should have a setting called “drain”, you need to turn the controller on the pump to this position, to drain the pool. If your pump does not have a drain setting, switch it to “backwash” instead. I also opened the inspection chambers as well to make sure the pool is draining correctly. any water left in the return pipes will drain out into the pool, during this process. The water level should now of completely dropped, but there may be some residue of water around the drain. I use a hard brush to make this go down the drain, once the cover is removed. Now go back to your plant room, switch off the pump, close the drain cock. The pool return valve should remain closed, to prevent water from the filter entering the pool while work is carried out. I also Lockout-Tagout the main switch for the plant room, to prevent anyone switching on the power to the plant room, while the pool is empty.

Finally, I have put a sign on the doors to the pool area, saying that the pool is closed. As entry to the pool is via PACS System, I used a chain around the handles of the door and attached a padlock, to make sure no one can get in, while the pool is out of use.

And that’s it, one emptied pool. Once the work is completed, (in 1 – 2 weeks time) I will do a guide on filling and setting up the pool.