Every school is different and fire safety plans should be developed that fit a school/district. However, these 10 tips can easily be incorporated into any school/district fire safety program.
1. REVIEW PREVENTION POLICIES
They always say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This couldn’t be more appropriate for Fire Prevention. The prevention of fire in schools is an ongoing process that should be reviewed regularly. The Menomonee Falls Fire Department provides educational programs for schools across the Village, and they freely offer their expertise to help refine school fire prevention policies.
2. MAKE SYSTEM FAMILIARITY A REQUIREMENT
Make sure faculty and staff members are familiar with the school’s fire safety systems. When everyone has a working knowledge of sprinklers, security lighting and alarms, they’re more likely to spot potential system problems and know how to report/mitigate them.
3. ENSURE CLEAR ACCESS TO ALARMS AND EXITS
This is another job that’s easily taken care of by teachers and staff. Throughout the day, week and school year, keep a vigilant eye on fire exits, stairwells and alarm stations so that they don’t become blocked. Be aware of how many combustible signs, decorations, and materials you have in your classrooms.
4. MAP EVACUATION ROUTES
Post maps in each classroom that clearly show two different escape routes in case of a school fire. Explain to students that these areas in hallways and stairwells need to stay clear of obstructions at all times. Ask for their help backing up staff efforts to keep evacuation routes safe.
5. PRACTICE FIRE DRILLS REGULARLY
No matter how well you teach fire safety in schools, lessons need to be reinforced with practice. Hold regular fire drills once a month so that students become familiar with getting organized for evacuation and following escape routes. These are safety skills they can take home too.
6. SET UP A BUDDY SYSTEM
In each classroom, identify children with special needs. Work with other students in the class to set up a buddy system that supports kids who need extra help during practice drills or actual school fire emergencies. Consider designating a “shelter in place” location(s) in the schools for those students that have limited mobility or cannot readily leave an upper floor of a school/classroom.
7. STRESS ORDER OVER EXCITEMENT
Children naturally get excited during a fire drill, but make it clear that safety depends on order. Explain why they must keep their place in line and stay with the group. Teach them to remain calm now so that they can face a real emergency without being frightened.
8. COUNT HEADS IN A SAFE ZONE
Designate areas outside the building as safe zones or meeting places for holding in place after an evacuation. Teachers should use rosters to confirm an accurate head count for each class. Make sure students understand that they should never try to go back inside until they’re given the all-clear.
9. SHAKE UP THE ROUTINE
Several times each semester, hold unscheduled fire drills. Run these unexpected practices at different times of day and under different conditions. This gives you and staff the opportunity to pinpoint any problems with your plans, and it helps children learn to stay calm during an emergency.
10. EMPOWER YOUR STUDENTS
Let students know how important it is to always practice fire safety. Tell them how much you appreciate them for behaving, helping buddies and following the rules. When they know they’re learning skills that will serve them even later in life, kids take pride in being a part of school fire safety.
Remember, “If you love life, love safety!”