Today educational facilities are re-vamped with wonderful aesthetics and state-of-the-art technology, but oftentimes the basic facility needs can be initially overlooked. The need to equip your facility with safety protection systems is key to creating a safe environment for staff and students. Fire safety is one of those pertinent protection systems that should be incorporated in your facility planning and upgrades.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire departments respond to an average of almost 5,000 school fires every year. Almost 70 percent of these fires occurred in schools serving kindergarten through 12th grade and resulted in 351 injuries.
With statistics like these, it goes without saying that fire alarms, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, and fire escapes are key components to the safety of everyone on school grounds. The NFPA notes that a working alarm cuts the risk of dying in a reported house fire by half. Installing and regularly maintaining fire alarms is essential to keeping kids and property safe (“School Safety: Fire Prevention Week,” Safe and Sound Schools).
Experts and safety inspectors strongly suggest fire alarms and fire extinguishers undergo routine maintenance in order to perform as needed. On Whirlwind Steel’s blog, they caution that “in no instance should the alarm pull or the extinguisher access be blocked or hidden.” Having proper access to alarms and fire extinguishers could mean the difference between life or death.
Fire Safety: School Building Codes and Regulations
When it comes to adhering to facility building codes and regulations, there are fire codes and regulations to closely follow as well. Safe and Sound Schools suggest you know the following about your facility occupancy and activity — key to getting everyone out safely in case of a fire.
When the last time the building was thoroughly inspected?
Where critical signage is located, such as exit signs and evacuation routes.
How many people can fit in the building as a whole and in classrooms and staff rooms?
(“School Safety: Fire Prevention Week”, Safe and Sound Schools).
Also, per School Planning and Management, experts in the article “School Building Codes: A Basic Guide for Facility Managers,” suggest checking for fire ratings. They say many schools were designed with hallways and corridors to be fire rated — which means “hallway doors are rated and labeled so that when replacing a door, a quick look at the label makes it simple to replace it. Similarly, walls must go all the way to the deck. Holes in the ceiling must be patched to maintain its fire rating. Also, if a pipe is put through a fire-rated wall, the hole can be sealed with fire-rated caulk.”
(“School Building Codes: A Basic Guide For Facility Managers”, Ellen Kollie, 2007).
These regulations and standards are especially important for administrators and facility managers to check-off as they make sure the building is safe.
The Exit Plan
For all the building preparedness, there is no substituting a smartly, executed evacuation plan. Teachers, administrators and staff should all know the importance of routine fire drills — and make sure their students know the importance of the drills as well. Viewed by many today as a small break from class, there have been too many instances where fire alarms weren’t a break at all — but a real instance of safety. It’s important to make sure everyone knows the protocol to get out and get home safely.