Is Your School and its Students Prepared For a Fire?
Schools are facing many different challenges when it comes to reopening this fall due to COVID. Mask wearing, social distancing, and vaccine requirements, have been some of the many hurdles that school administers and teachers have had to deal with.
Schools that are returning to in person learning this school year are making a lot of adjustments to keep students and staff as safe as possible. These changes are great to help slow the spread of COVID. But, they can also interfere with the fire safety of your school.
There are many adjustments that can be made to provide some COVID protection to staff and students in schools. For example, the below modifications are ways that schools can help stop the spread of COVID. But, with these modifications there are fire and life safety risks that come with them.
Changing routes to help with the flow of traffic needs to be practiced and documented for students to follow properly. According to NFPA these new routes also need to be “reviewed for compliance with travel distance, number of exits, separation of exits, and other egress design criteria”.
Holding doors open can help limit the spread of germs by eliminating a high touch area. But, per NFPA “close attention needs to be paid to ensure that the design, function, and operation of such doors fully comply with code requirements”. One example of this is making sure fire doors are able to automatically close in the event of a fire.
Moving desks around to help with social distancing is necessary in the age of COVID. It is important to make sure that when desks are rearranged, exits are not being blocked. NFPA says not to obstruct “the required egress paths, including secondary access doors and rescue windows, exits, access to manual fire alarm pull stations, and access to other fire protection and life safety systems”.
Using partitions is also a great way to provide separation between students. In order to make sure the partitions are fire safe they must be evaluated for interference. NFPA says that the partitions cannot render the fire and life safety systems ineffective. This means that they cannot block the smoke/heat detectors, or the fire sprinkler systems.
For many schools, this fall will be the first-time students are back at school for in person learning. With students learning from home for so long, they might forget some of schools social and safety norms.
Along with being unfamiliar at school, many schools are modifying their layouts. These new changes will help with lessening high touch areas and social distancing. These changes could also create confusion and safety concerns for students.
Because of the overall unfamiliar nature with being at school for in person learning, it is vital that schools conduct frequent fire drills to ensure that students and staff can evacuate quickly and safely in the event of a fire.
For information on fire drills at school check out our previous blog post, Fire and Life Safety at School. Along with the information in the above blog post, NFPA recommends that schools should “find ways to accommodate social distancing during emergency evacuation drills”.
How to Keep Your School, Students, and Staff Safe
This year there are a whole new set of precautions for schools to slow the spread of COVID. These new precautions on top of your normal safety procedures can make for a very overwhelming school year. Our team at IFS is here to help you make this transition as safe as possible.
It is important to have your fire alarm and fire sprinkler system inspected before the school year to make sure that those systems are working properly. If you are in need of an inspection, give us a call at 888-987-5322.
If you have made COVID building modifications to your school and need to ensure that you are following fire code, call your local Fire Marshall with questions.
-The IFS Team