Risk Management: Preventing School Fires, Keeping Students Safe
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) cites that between 2007 and 2011, on annual basis U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 5,690 structure fires in educational properties. These fires caused an annual average of 85 civilian fire injuries and $92 million in direct property damage. What’s more, about three-quarters (71%) of the structure fires occurring in educational properties involve schools providing pre-school through high-school education. In addition, half of the fires in buildings that house preschool through grade 12 are intentionally set, and nearly almost one-quarter (24%) of the structure fires in buildings that house pre-school through grade 12 were contained trash or rubbish fires.
The NFPA provides safety measures to help prevent fires in schools and keep children safe. These include among many other things: holding fire drills at least once a month while school is in session; ensuring that principals, teachers or other school staff inspect all exits daily to ensure that stairways, doors and other exits are working properly and are unblocked; making sure that teachers, officials and staff are familiar with the school’s fire protection system, including the location of fire alarm pull stations and sprinklers and that every room in the school have a map posted identifying two ways out; assigning an adult or a student buddy to assist students with specific needs on the day of the fire drill; and ensuring order in having everyone safely existing the building.
In addition, inspectors in finding frequent fire safety deficiencies in public schools have provided reinforcement tips for schools to follow. These include:
- Storage Tips: Combustible material (wood, paper, rubber, Styrofoam, foam rubber, cardboard and plastic boxes) cannot be stored within 24 inches of any ceiling. Items stored close to the ceiling can block water from a sprinkler head trying to put a fire out. Pictures, trophies, plants, decorations, student projects and teaching aids can be displayed within 2 feet of the ceiling.
Combustibles cannot be stored in electrical rooms, air handling rooms or mechanical rooms. They can easily ignite near energized equipment that is hot or even warm. The air conditioning system and ductwork can spread toxic smoke throughout the building.
Items cannot be stored in exit corridors or hallways. Anything that causes a bottleneck effect while people are trying to get out of the building quickly can cause serious injury or death.
- Electrical Tips: Extension cords and multi-plug adapters cannot be used as a substitute for permanent wiring or be connected together. These are designed for isolated or limited use and can overheat starting a fire. When a television, radio, fan, etc. is connected for an extended period of time, be sure a surge protector is used. This prevents an electrical fire occurring from overheated electrical wiring.
- Portable Space Heaters Tips: Do not use portable electrical space heaters within three feet of combustible material. The space heater doesn’t have to have direct contact with something to ignite a fire. Also, the space heater should have a built-in automatic tip-over switch, which will turn off the heating if the heater is accidentally tipped or falls over.
Caitlin-Morgan provides educational institutions with sound insurance programs in the event of a loss as well as risk analysis and management to pinpoint vulnerabilities and help mitigate exposures. We can assist you in providing your insureds with solutions that improve their insurance plans and risk management programs. Give us a call at 877.226.1027.