||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (April 2015)|
A fire drill is a method of practicing the evacuation of a building for a fire or other emergency. Usually, the emergency system (the fire alarm/smoke detector) sounds and the building is evacuated as though a real fire had occurred. Generally, the time it takes to evacuate is measured to ensure that it occurs within a reasonable length of time, and problems with the emergency system or evacuation procedures are identified to be remedied.
History of Fire Drills
The purpose of fire drills in schools is so that everyone in the building is aware of how to get out of the building in the quickest and safest way possible if a fire were to occur. Fire drills were put in place after many severe fires in schools happened. One that had a major impact on the foundation of the drills was a fire at the private catholic school Our Lady of the Angels in 1958, in Chicago, Illinois.
Our Lady of the Angels School Fire
A young boy was in the hall at school and smelled smoke coming from the fire from down the hall. He notified his teacher who investigated it. The teacher concluded that it was coming from the stairwell, which was the only way out. At this school, only the Mother Superior was allowed to pull the fire alarm, so the teacher couldn’t inform the rest of the school of her discovery. She did notify other teachers in her area and pulled a local fire alarm which only went off in the areas surrounding her, and was able to evacuate a few of the surrounding classrooms. An onlooker called the fire department, but told them the wrong address, causing them to take a while to get there. Meanwhile, all of the children on the second floor were trapped there, not knowing how to get out of the building safely. Because fire drills were not common at this time nor did they have the knowledge of what to do, many teachers on the second floor told their children to stay in their seat and pray to God. Many children tried jumping out the window and many burned in the fire. The main cause of death was of being trapped in the building without an exit. When the firefighters finally arrived, they managed to save 200 nuns and children, but the rest were trapped inside.
Upon investigating the fires cause and preventions, it was concluded that the school was not ‘fire safe’. It had no smoke detectors, no sprinklers, it was overcrowded, and had sloppy housekeeping. However, it still had passed a fire inspection two months prior, having the correct amount of fire exits and fire extinguishers for that time. This, however, caused authorities to reevaluate the fire safety conducts.
In order to make schools safer, education was needed on what to do during the fire. Monthly fire drills were put in place after the Our Lady of the Angels fire. It was found in a later study that education on fire also helped prevent it. As time moved on, people started to learn more about what started fires, and what to do in the case of one happening. People were now on the lookout for fires, and now knew how to prevent them from igniting. Within a year of the fire, many of the hazardous conditions found in Our Lady of the Angels were then fixed in thousands of schools around the country.
Other Improvements in Fire Safety
After the fire at Our Lady of the Angel, state regulations required that there had to be fire alarm street boxes no more than one hundred feet from the front of the building. The General Assembly of Illinois also passed life safety codes in response to the fire at Our Lady of the Angel. Things such as more control over waste disposal, proper storage of combustible supplies, more frequent fire drills and inspections were put in place. Other reforms from the fire include the city of Chicago modifying the Municipal Building Code of Chicago, affecting fire safety of schools as well as other buildings with two or more stories. To prevent fires and deaths caused by fires, schools must have an evacuation plan in place, and make sure that all the proper fire alarms and warnings work. Teachers must take charge of the situation and be a leader. Teachers should also consider the amount of students that they have. They need enough space and time to get all of the students out quickly, and safely. Teachers should also be the ones that are looking out for causes of fires, in order to try and stop it from happening.
Security improvements for School Fire Drills
In reviewing how during one shooting incident Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden a fire alarm was used, and the consideration that an alarm could distract victims and get all the occupants of the building in one place, out in the open. Nick Dial's article suggests possible improvements of a color-coded drill along with other remarks about school security.
Fire drill regulations
Many jurisdictions require that fire drills be conducted at certain intervals. This is most often the case in elementary, middle, and high schools as well as most colleges and universities, but sometimes other places as well. Often the frequency of such drills and any special actions that must be taken during such drills are listed in the statute.
In the United States, school fire drill regulations are set by individual states.
Some states require that schools conduct a fire drill once per month:
- California (elementary schools)
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- Utah (elementary schools)
- West Virginia
Some states require that schools conduct a specific number of drills over the course of the entire school year, or that a certain number of drills must be conducted within a certain period of time:
Some states specify a greater frequency of fire drills at the beginning of the school year:
Until regulations changed on November 1, 2010, New Jersey was unique in its requirement that schools conduct two fire drills per month. Under more recent requirements, one of the two fire drills was replaced by a monthly security drill.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families requires that all schools, colleges and universities and any other education establishment perform a fire drill at least once per academic year and recommends that one should occur termly. According to the latest UK fire regulations, fire alarm sounders must be installed in every room. Plus regularly health and safety checks such as testing the fire alarms and fire extinguishers should be performed weekly. According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, all workplaces must have an emergency plan consisting of staff actions, evacuation plans and arrangements for contacting the fire brigade.
The New Zealand Fire Service requires all schools and educational facilities to carry out a fire drill (termed a trial evacuation) at least once every six months, unless a shorter period is specified in the school's approved evacuation scheme. Schools need to give the Fire Service 10 working days' notice before a fire drill is planned, and must submit a report to the Fire Service within 10 working days of the drill; an unplanned alarm activation does not count as a fire drill.
"Fire Drill" is also a sports term; in the Canadian Football League, fire drill refers to a situation in which the snap during a field goal is fumbled and a pre-arranged series of running routes are then run by eligible receivers in an attempt by the holder to advance the football by passing it instead of kicking it.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fire drill.|
- Chinese fire drill, a form of prank.
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