Be fire safe for back to school

A fire alarm with built in strobe light to alert in case of fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments respond to approximately 5,690 fires at education buildings each year. These fires caused an annual 85 civilian injuries and $92 million in direct property damage. Almost a quarter of all school fires are started intentionally. Safety education and preparation should be a priority for every family and school official.

E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety offers these tips to play it safe as children and adolescents return to school:

  • Fire drills should be held at least once a month while school is in session (weather permitting).
  • Principals, teachers or other school staff must inspect all exits daily to ensure that stairways, doors, and other exits are working properly and are unblocked.
  • On the day of the drill, the emergency drill alarm should be sounded on the school fire alarm system. Make sure everyone can recognize the sound of the alarm and knows what to do when it sounds.
  • Teachers, officials, and staff should be familiar with the school’s fire protection system, including the location of fire alarms pull stations and sprinklers.
  • Every room in the school should have a map posted identifying two ways out. In schools with open floor plans, exit paths should be obvious and kept free of obstruction.
  • On the day of the fire drill, everyone in the school should participate.
  • Students with specific needs should be assigned an adult or a student buddy to assist them. Fire drills are a good opportunity to identify who among the student population requires extra assistance.
  • While it’s important to make sure that students leave the building as quickly as possible, order is more important than speed when it comes to conducting a safe fire drill.
  • Use the class rosters to ensure every student is accounted for.
  • Fire drills should be held both at expected and at unexpected time, and under varying conditions in order to simulate the conditions that can occur in an actual emergency.
  • School fire drills are a model for students to use in their homes. Encourage students to practice their escape plans at home – just as they do at school

If a student engages in firesetting or other negative high risk taking behavior, contact your local fire department or visit for a list of West Michigan Fire Department based Youth Firesetting Prevention and Intervention programs.

College Fire Safety

While the above tips focus mostly on elementary, middle and high schools, they can also apply to college buildings, where firefighters respond to about 3,810 fires each year – 88% of which are due to cooking mishaps. Here’s a college-level course in fire prevention:

On-campus precautions

  • Cook only in designated areas
  • Keep cooking areas clean and free of clutter
  • Never leave cooking unattended
  • In case of a fire inside a microwave, close the door and unplug the unit

Campus lab precautions

  • Never leave lab experiments or pressure vessels unattended
  • Keep flammable gases and chemicals away from heat

Off-campus precautions

  • Be sure each bedroom has a working smoke alarm
  • Make sure the building sprinkler system is well maintained
  • Building heating and fire-prevention systems need to be checked annually by fire officials

General precautions

  • Identify the two closest exits and all possible evacuation routes
  • Know locations of fire alarms and how to use them
  • Report vandalized fire equipment to campus security

Fire Prevention Week is recognized each October. However, fire safety should be practiced 365 days a year. Whether you’re at home, in the office or at school, safety should come first. Do your part to protect yourself and those around you Where You Live!

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