Fire protection for educational facilities is all about education and preparation. Whether you’re the guardian of a student, an educator, or an administrator, everyone can take an active role in school fire safety.
While we hope we’re sending our students to a safe facility when they go to school, school fires can, and do, happen. The NFPA reports an estimated average of 4,980 structure fires in educational properties between 2011 and 2015. Of these fires, almost 70 percent occurred in K-12 facilities.
School fires can be a result of harmless mistakes, intentional arson, or negligence on the part of the school. Teachers may unintentionally overload circuits, exits may be blocked, and kitchen fires can break out in the school cafeteria.
Here are a few steps that our schools can take to prevent school fires.
Advocate for school fire safety
Talk to students and staff about fire safety at school. Conduct regular fire drills, but also talk about the importance of fire alarms and ways to get to safety if a fire breaks out anywhere in the school. Post updated escape plans in each room and ensure teachers and students understand primary and secondary routes. Finally, create instructional time for teachers to educate students on fire safety. Be sure teachers and students know how fire safety is enforced in their classroom and school.
Encourage care givers to teach fire safety education at home. All kids have heard it: “Stop, Drop, and Roll!” But do students fully understand what it means? Provide free resources for care givers to discuss steps their students can take to get to safety in a fire emergency. For example, staying low to the ground and feeling door handles for heat before touching. Preparedness is the key to helping students know what to do in a fire while at school or away from home.
Fire Safe Kids also suggests teaching kids what they call the “Three P’s” (prevent, plan, and practice). The goal is to teach children to stop a fire before it starts and ways to plan an escape in the event of a fire emergency, and then practice those skills.
These skills are great to use almost anywhere, but especially in schools where parents aren’t around to guide students.
Take steps to deter arson
Arson is the second leading cause of school fires. The most common reason for arsonists to catch fire to schools and educational facilities is simply vandalism, defined as malicious or mischievous fire setting that results in damage to property.
Arson does not just affect the students and staff of a school; it affects the entire community. As FEMA notes, “in addition to fire departments, communities must involve the police department, mental health professionals, school system, children’s hospitals, social services, and the media.”
Schools should take proactive steps to protect their communities from the danger and destructiveness of arson related fires. Fire protection for educational facilities also takes a vigilant community to alert school personnel to any signs of vandalism.
Schools and surrounding areas can take these steps to deter arson:
- Install exterior lighting with timers, motion- or daylight-detection sensors
- Keep shrubbery and trees trimmed to keep areas around the building unobstructed
- Install intrusion alarms on doors, windows, ventilator openings and roof hatched
- Keep trash receptacles stored away from buildings to reduce danger of fire. Use locked metal lids for extra protection.
Part of preventing arson at educational facilities includes means to deter and prevent arson. It’s important to make these preventative steps known to students and parents. Education and community involvement will further prevent the chance of fire due to arson.
Train staff on how to use a fire extinguisher
Every classroom has one. They save lives and protect property. And yet, few people know how to properly use them.
Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is a life-saving skill. Educating teachers and staff on the proper use of fire extinguishers adds one more layer of protection. Some schools even teach students to use fire extinguishers.
Schools can provide training for staff by contacting their fire department, or fire protection company if they offer fire extinguisher training.
The simple acronym PASS acts as a great reminder on how to properly use a fire extinguisher:
- PULL the pin. This will also break the tamper seal.
- AIM low, pointing the extinguisher nozzle (or its horn or hose) at the base of the fire.
- SQUEEZE the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
- SWEEP from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Watch the area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat steps 2 – 4.
Fire protection for educational facilities
Educational facilities are also required to maintain annual inspections of fire protection systems. A lot goes in to protecting an educational facility from the dangers of fire. It’s critical that every component of the fire protection system is working. Some of these components include fire sprinkler system, fire alarm system, fire extinguishers, and emergency and exit lighting.
Regular maintenance is of particular importance in our schools where children spend most of their days during the school year. Students are also more likely than an adult to tamper with pull-stations, fire extinguishers, etc. This means that in addition to ensuring components are in working order, it’s also important to make sure nothing is damaged or missing.
Fire Systems, Inc. is an Atlanta-based fire protection company with over 32 years in business. Fire Systems has decades of experience serving educational facilities in the Atlanta area and beyond.
We understand the unique needs of educational facilities and can even provide fire extinguisher training for all staff members. Fire Systems is an “all services” company. We can inspect, repair, and install all components of your fire protection system. We even offer fire alarm monitoring! Call us today at 770-333-7979 or visit our website for more information.