Be On The Safe Side: Fire Safety - Prevent, Prepare, Protect
October is National Fire Prevention Month.
Saying goodbye to summer means saying hello to fall: students go back to school; leaves change colors; and of course, cooler weather! While temperatures outside may be dropping, we would like to take a moment to discuss a hot topic in child care--fire safety.
This edition of "Be On the Safe Side" is inspired in part by an event that took place at a child care facility in Pennsylvania this past August--a fire in an overnight family child care home that resulted in the tragic death of five children sleeping inside. This article is difficult but provides an opportunity to review the child care rules in place to help PREVENT such fires. The rules also act as a guide as you PREPARE for a potential fire-related emergency and help PROTECT the lives of the children in our care.
PREVENT! Stop fires before they start!
Get a fire inspection annually. All child care facilities must schedule an annual fire inspection. It is the responsibility of the child care provider to exercise due diligence to ensure a timely inspection. (NCGS 110-91(5); 10A NCAC 09 .0304(a))
Monitor potentially dangerous appliances and power cords. Be mindful of appliances with heating elements and keep power cords out of reach of children. Extension cords are never to be used unless approved by the local fire inspector.(10A NCAC 09 .0604(e)-(f); .1719(3); .0604(n))
Store flammable/combustible materials safely. Items used to start fires, such as matches and lighters, must be locked up out of children's reach. (10A NCAC 09 .0604(g); .1719(4))
Keep child care facilities smoke & tobacco free! According to data from the United States Fire Administration (USFA), smoking-related fires were responsible for 6.3% of injuries and 11.8% of deaths from residential fires in the United States in 2017. (10A NCAC 09 .0604(h); .1719(10))
PREPARE! Act quickly in a fire-related emergency!
Is one smoke detector enough? All child care facilities must have at least one battery-secured smoke detector but are encouraged to consider the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommendation that smoke alarms be installed inside every sleep room, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of a home. Additionally, the USFA recommends replacing smoke detectors every ten years. Remember--the child care rules are only the minimum standards for a child care center or family child care home! (10A NCAC 09 .1707(2))
Do you care for children overnight? There should already be a smoke detector installed in each room where children will be sleeping. According to a NFPA report from January 2019, almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. (10A NCAC 09 .1728(c)(3))
Test your smoke detectors during monthly fire drills! The NFPA recommends testing smoke detectors at least once a month to make sure they are in working order. Make this check part of your facility's monthly fire drill. A Fire Drill Log template for logging fire drills is available on the Division's website for your convenience. (10A NCAC 09 .0604(t); 1719(15))
Post emergency contact phone numbers. The number for the nearest fire department, as well as all other appropriate emergency phone numbers, must be clearly posted near the telephone. (10A NCAC 09 .1719(12))
PROTECT! Act safely in a fire-related emergency!
Know your facility's emergency preparedness & response plan! Familiarize yourself with your facility's Emergency Preparedness & Response Plan so you know what to do in the event of an emergency. (10A NCAC 09 .0607; .1714)
Is your evacuation crib in working order? Many of the children in your care will need assistance to evacuate quickly. Your evacuation crib must have wheels in working order, a reinforced bottom, and must be able to fit through the fire exit.(10A NCAC 09 .0604(r))
Travel and fire safety. There must be a fire extinguisher (and first aid kit) in any vehicle used to transport children.(10A NCAC 09 .1003(c); .1723(11))
Check Out National Fire Protection Association and the United States Fire Administration for more fire safety information, free teaching tools, and many more fire safety tips!