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School Fire Damage Preparedness and Education
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
School fires in the United States are responsible for over $85 million in property damage every year. While injuries and fatalities in school fires are rare, the damage left behind is often considerable, requiring weeks or even months before everything is properly repaired and the school is functioning at peak efficiency again. School systems across the country continue to refine and improve fire safety measures and programs through continued fire education, building inspections, and identification of possible youth offenders who may be responsible for cases of school arson.
Many school fires occur during the summer months, with the fewest reported fires during the middle of the school year. Arson accounts for the majority of reported school fires. Fires may start in bathrooms, kitchens, and smaller areas where students commonly gather. Almost 40 percent of school fires begin in trash cans, vehicles, or wooded areas around the school building.
How to Educate Students and Staff
School fires are best prevented through proper education and training of both students and faculty. Some common fire safety tips include:
Plan and hold fire drills at periodic intervals to keep students and faculty aware and familiar with all emergency exits from wherever they happen to be in the school at the moment. Local firefighters may also be brought in for fire prevention and safety lectures.
Newer schools are using safer and more flame retardant construction materials and almost all schools have been equipped with sprinkler systems designed to squelch any blaze that may occur. Also, electrical cords and connections should be routinely checked for any signs of wearing or fraying. Exit doors should be clearly marked and kept free of obstruction and chemicals and cleaning supplies should always be stored in a safe and well ventilated location.
Fire preparedness should also take into account the factor of “at risk” students; those who fall into the delinquent category and who may be more prone to engaging in risky and dangerous behavior. Newer recommendations for preventing school fires include identifying these at risk students, those most likely to be drawn to fire setting behavior such as gang activity. Psychological help should be provided once these students are identified by school personnel. With arson as a leading cause of school fire damage, this is one area that should not be overlooked or minimized.