Fires are terrifying because of the nature of their potential destruction. Homes can be rebuilt; schools can too.
What can't be replaced is human life.
By establishing a robust fire prevention and preparedness program, you're taking action against the tragic events that may occur in a fire emergency. This is no truer in buildings such as schools and child care facilities, in which parents trust teachers and associated staff to care for their children and have the systems in place that guarantee their safety in an emergency situation.
While local codes and standards will dictate the preventative measures that must be in place to protect those within a school or childcare facility against fire, there are many best practices you can implement that go beyond those standards.
Fire code regulations require that all schools (in Ontario — make sure to check your local fire code requirements) have a fire safety plan that must be approved by local fire services and must be kept in an approved location inside a fire safety plan box. The plan must be implemented and reviewed at least once a year, or as often as necessary.
In Ontario, for example, building site managers, such as a Principal or equivalent, Team Leaders and caretaking staff are deemed supervisory staff. They must be familiar with the fire code and able to train other staff, particularly those delegated responsibility for the fire safety of other building occupants under your facility's fire protection plan. Supervisory staff must have fire safety training.
While the site manager is responsible for ensuring the school's fire safety plan is implemented, the head caretaker must also review the plan with the Principal annually to make sure they understand each other's role in the event of a fire.
Make Sure Your Plan is Tuned to Prevent Fires From Occuring in the First Place
Establish a prevention plan that documents those responsible for identifying fire hazards and potentially combustible materials. This plan should also outline any procedure necessary to prevent fire in the case of an emergency.
For example, your plan should identify and list any combustible sources within your facility to ensure they're kept safe from any possibility of accidental ignition. Combustible sources would include specific cleaning supplies made of potentially flammable chemicals. Ensure cleaning staff are aware of the potential fire hazards related to using those products.
If any petroleum product is stored on-site, ensure storage techniques comply with safety code requirements.
Print the plan off so staff members can review it or share it via email to ensure any requirements are regularly reviewed.
Practice Makes Perfect
Responding to a fire emergency is much easier and efficient when every building occupants know their responsibilities if an accident ever occurs. An effective fire emergency evacuation plan outlines not only how and when people should respond, but also a path to safety.
Always be sure that there are procedures in place to practice your evacuation plan regularly. This is especially important in schools and child care facilities because children are involved. Repetition is a useful learning technique. By performing regular mock evacuations, children will come to adopt safety protocols in an evacuation as second nature, ensuring the process is as smooth and as safe as possible.
Are Staff Trained Effectively?
The importance of proper training can never be overemphasized in the context of fire safety. Members of your fire safety team should know how to use a fire extinguisher. Make sure those team members are briefed on updated regulations as they happen.
It's one thing to run drills and prepare people for a fire. Even better is preventing a fire from happening in the first place. Effective fire prevention is achieved through routine maintenance and by making employees aware of, not only potential fire hazards within a school or daycare but also any routine maintenance that can prevent a fire from ever happening.
Keep Your Facility Clear of Fire Hazards (or be Aware of Them)
Doing so on a daily basis is an essential and preventative fire safety measure. Always inspects those areas that house flammable materials to ensure they're safe and clean. Any spills should be cleaned up immediately. Ensure all electronics and electrical outlets are in good working condition.
Preventative Maintenance is Critical
Measures that prevent fires in a school or other public building are relatively straightforward. The best preventative measure is to use a proactive maintenance program that keeps the building's condition in compliance with regional fire safety codes.
Leverage the expertise of licensed and certified fire protection services professionals to conduct facility inspections, tests, repairs and maintenance services for your fire protection systems that ensure your building is not only up to code but best prepared and outfitted to keep staff and students safe if a fire were ever to occur.
Control Fire Systems Ltd., founded in 1975, is an international special hazard fire suppression equipment supply and service company that's equipped with the expertise you need to keep your building protected against the devastating impacts of fire. We are authorized distributors for Notifier, Kidde Fire Systems, FireFlex & FireAway LLC.
Reach out today to see how we can help with any of your fire protection equipment and service needs.