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Fire Response Plans Are An Important Part Of Any Child Safe Environment

Children attending child care at a Utah Presbyterian church had to evacuate when an electrical issue caused a small fire. The church's smoke alarms went off, and firefighters were dispatched to the scene.

Thirty children and several child care workers took a school bus to a church a block away. Police officers helped the children get on the bus and move from the bus into the relocation building. Everyone was able to evacuate without injuries.

The fire appears to have been accidental. Authorities do not know if utility work that was being performed on the church's property at the time caused the electrical problem that led to the fire. Jeff Richards "Small fire at church prompts evacuation of day care center" stgeorgeutah.com (Feb. 07, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

All owners of child care facilities must have a fire response plan. Trying to figure out what to do when after an issue arises can lead to confusion, chaos, possible injuries, or death.

A fire response plan must consider every necessary step in the event of a fire. Include how employees and volunteers will make sure all children are accounted for and escort them from the building; what adults will need to take with them, such as any necessary medications for children and water; what type of vehicles will be necessary if you need to leave the area; whether the vehicles are safe for children to ride in; and how employees will handle any fire-related injuries.

The plan must include who will notify the fire department. Determine what type of help will be necessary and work with the fire and police departments to outline how they will provide needed assistance. Your fire drills should include your community partners, if possible.

Give all parents and guardians a copy of your fire response procedures. State in the plan where parents should go to meet their children in the event of a fire. You should include an on-site location, such as the parking lot, as well as an off-site meeting place in case children are evacuated away from the area. Determine how you will notify parents as to which location they should go to pick up their children. Keeping parents informed of the emergency situation must be an essential part of your procedures in order to reduce fear and panic.  

Here are some additional tips child care providers should follow to reduce the risk of a fire-related injury:

  • Teach children about the nature of fire and its dangers. It is fast, hot, and deadly.
  • If children are ever around fire, such as during a campout, teach them ahead of time how to interact with fire safely.
  • Prohibit children from having matches and lighters, and keep any that the child care uses in a secured place. Teach children to tell an adult immediately if they find matches or lighters lying around.
  • Install smoke detectors in all areas of the child care facility. Consider monitored systems that automatically notify the fire department if they go off.
  • Practice your fire escape plan on a regular basis so that children know what to do and can follow the plan even when there is a fire.
  • Show children how to crawl low on the floor to exit the building if the hallways have filled with smoke.
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