School classrooms contain a multitude of projects, displays, audiovisual and electronic equipment, etc. To ensure the safety of the children and teachers in the classroom as well as all of the occupants of the school building, proper fire safety practices are a necessity.
Common Fire Safety Hazards Found in Classrooms
Only approved circuit breaker protected outlet strips should be used. Strips should not be plugged into each other, they should connect directly to an outlet. Overloaded extension cords can overheat and cause a fire. A circuit breaker protected outlet strip will “trip” or shut off if it becomes overloaded, decreasing the chance of a fire.
Storage and Decorations
Storage must be 18 inches below the ceiling in areas with fire sprinklers and 24 inches below the ceiling without fire sprinklers. Excess storage contributes to the spread of fire and prevents fire sprinkler heads from containing the fire until the fire department arrives.
Decorations also need to be limited to “20% of the total wall area” per the Ohio Fire Code. In addition, decorations should not be suspended from walls or the ceiling unless they are rated as “flame retardant”.
Flammable decorations contribute to the spread of toxic and deadly gases and have been cited as contributing factors in major loss of life fires including Our Lady of Angels School fire and The Station nightclub fire.
Blocked Fire Exits
Marked exit doors should be kept unlocked and clear any time the school is occupied. Tables and chairs must not block exit access and the door should be able to freely open. The area outside of the door should also be kept free of obstructions including snow.
Corridors leading to emergency exits must be kept clear. Each classroom should identify a primary and a secondary exit path. A diagram depicting the exits should be posted in each room.
Other Safety Tips
- Use only approved circuit breaker protected outlet strips.
- Keep storage orderly and below the required distance below the ceiling.
- Use only flame retardant decorations and keep displays on walls to a minimum.
- Keep exits and exit paths clear of obstructions.
- Know your primary and secondary exit points.
- Practice your school’s emergency evacuation plans regularly.
- Know the location of your classroom’s closest fire extinguisher and how to properly use it.
- Space heater use is not permitted.
- Ensure that all fires or attempted fires are reported to the Fire Department for follow-up.
- Curiosity fire behavior in children can lead to more hazardous fire behavior including arson. Contact your local Fire Department for assistance in these cases.