Fire Safety in School Buildings - Reference Guide #D.3
Fire can occur in a school building at any time and from a myriad of causes. From the moment of ignition there is the potential of a major disaster, and in a matter of minutes. The best defense against injury or possible loss of life from fire lies in a strong fire prevention and life safety program. Such a program must be fully supported by all school administrators, with vigorous attention to the following three elements:
- EDUCATION using the Annual Fire Safety Report. Completed by a qualified code enforcement official, the fire safety report is the cornerstone of a sound fire safety program. While the official use of this report occurs only once a year indicating building conditions found on that date only, the report can be used by school staff for self-education and self-evaluation on a regular basis to identify and correct unsafe conditions or code deficiencies which may develop at any time. Used in this manner, minimum safety standards can be met and maintained on a continuing basis, and not left uncorrected until noted by the next annual inspection.
- TRAINING for Fire and Life Safety. Fire drills as required by Section 807 of the Education Law will ensure rapid and orderly occupant evacuation of school buildings at the time of a real fire emergency. To conduct fire drills properly, a working evacuation procedure must be in place, and must be practiced by all building occupants each time a drill is held. The procedure should provide for detailed instruction and training for all school employees in their respective duties to be performed at the time of a building emergency. Fire prevention and arson prevention education for all students is required by Section 808 of the Education Law. Such instruction has proven to be invaluable to students when confronted by life-threatening fire situations in their home lives as well as at school. The New York State syllabus for Health and Safety Education treats this important subject at all grade levels. Another excellent curriculum which integrates such instruction into regular school subjects has been developed by, and is available from the National Fire Prevention Association.
- ATTITUDE. Awareness of, and concern for fire and life safety in a school district
is of the highest priority and is often the hardest to achieve. It must come
initially from the demonstrated attitude of the school board and top school
administrators. When these individuals refuse to tolerate unsafe practices or conditions, and insist on, and participate in, a continuing program for fire safety in the schools, building administrators and their staff and students will follow their lead. The developed concern, coupled with daily observance of building conditions should help to eliminate unsafe conditions such as exits blocked with furniture or supplies, chained exit doors, combustible displays in exits, or poor housekeeping practices. When all building occupants are alert for fire hazards, and are trained to act to correct hazards as soon as they are discovered, the level of fire and life safety, usually noted only at the time of the annual inspection, can be maintained throughout the year.