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Fire Safety

Common Fire Code Violations in Schools

Fire Evacuation and Fire Watch Information

Prohibited Heat-Producing Appliances in School Buildings

Hand Sanitizer

Portable Fire Extinguishers

Fire Safety Requirements for Summer School Programs

Daily Fire Safety Inspection

Open Fires, Flames (Bonfires, Grilling)

 

 

Common Fire Code Violations in Schools

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Fire Evacuation and Fire Watch Information

Fire DrillFire Evacuation Drill Requirements - New Requirements Starting FY2018

For schools that are fully protected by automatic fire sprinklers, five fire evacuation drills are required during the school year, two of which must be conducted during the first four months of school. For schools that are not fully protected by automatic fire sprinklers, eight fire evacuation drills are required, with at least three during the first four months of school.

The following schools are not fully sprinklered and are required to conduct eight fire evacuation drills annually:

  • Cedar Grove ES
  • Damascus ES
  • Emory Grove Center
  • Fallsmead ES
  • Col. E. Brooke Lee MS
  • Luxmanor ES
  • Maryvale ES
  • Monocacy ES
  • Poolesville HS
  • Carl Sandburg Learning Center
  • Tilden MS
  • Twinbrook ES

The Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office does not allow emergency lockdown drills or directed evacuation drills to count as fire evacuation drills. The fire marshal recommends that fire evacuation drills take place at varying times of the school day; e.g., different class periods, during recess, or during lunch periods. Required fire drills must be conducted while school is in session.

Schools must maintain a log of completed fire evacuation drills to meet fire code regulations. The fire evacuation drill log must be maintained in the main office in the Fire Code Compliancy Binder (see MCPS Regulation EBA-RA, Fire Safety). The fire marshal may inspect this on-demand when conducting an inspection of fire code compliance. The Division of School Plant Operations building service supervisors and the Department of School Safety and Security cluster security coordinators will also be checking these logs on a periodic basis to ensure compliance. Schools should contact their cluster security coordinator if they have questions about the new fire drill requirements. 


Unscheduled Fire Alarms

Without exception or delay, all unscheduled activations of fire alarm systems in schools/facilities must be reported immediately to the PSCC. Dial 911 and evacuate the building. If it is determined that a false alarm has occurred and the fire apparatus has not yet arrived, call 911 to report the false alarm. PSCC personnel will determine if the alarm may be cancelled and if the building may be reoccupied prior to the arrival of fire personnel. Only the fire department has the authority to allow a building to be reoccupied once a fire alarm has been activated. Only by authority of the fire department may an unscheduled activated alarm be reset or silenced.

It is a violation of the Montgomery County Fire Safety Code, Section 22-75, to fail to call 911 and evacuate the building when a fire alarm is activated. Failure to follow the fire safety code can, and has, resulted in the issuance of a $1,000 civil citation to the administrator of the school/building.


Fire Watch Information

A fire watch is started when a building’s fire alarm system is malfunctioning or is not functioning at all. When establishing a fire watch, schools must notify the following personnel:

  • The school's associate superintendent
  • The school's maintenance depot
  • Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center (MCECC) at 240-683-6520
  • Systemwide Safety Programs team leader at 240-314-1070
  • Department of School Safety and Security at 301-279-3066
  • Interagency Coordinating Board at 240-777-2725 (call only when it is anticipated that a community-use activity will be taking place in the building during the fire watch)
 

An administrator must assign staff members to the fire watch team. The number of staff members assigned to the team is based on the size of the building, activities that are taking place in the building, and any specific circumstances regarding the fire alarm system. The average elementary school requires three to four staff members, middle school requires four to six staff members, and high school requires six to eight staff members. This number should be increased to facilitate notification if an evacuation is necessary and the public address (PA) system is not functioning. If a sufficient number of staff members is not available for the fire watch team or if you anticipate that the fire alarm system will be out of service for four or more hours, call the Division of School Plant Operations at 240-314-1075 so that arrangements can be made to send additional personnel for the fire watch team.

Each fire watch team member should be assigned a two-way radio for communication purposes. Also, if a fire watch is established for after-school/work activities, the administrator should ensure that all fire watch team members have access to a phone in the event that they need to call 911 to report a fire emergency.

Staff, students, and other building occupants must be informed that a fire watch is in place until further notice (an announcement over the PA system). Members of the fire watch team must continuously walk interior hallways and around the exterior of the relocatable classrooms. Team members should observe the following guidelines:

  • While walking, fire watch team members must check for smoke and fire.
  • If smoke and/or fire are observed, immediately contact the main office via two-way radio so an announcement can be made to evacuate the building immediately. An administrator/designee must call 911 in the event of an evacuation.
  • Team members must call in a report to the main office every 30 minutes and upon completing their walks. The reports must be recorded on a fire watch log (see link below).
  • During a fire watch, members of the fire watch team must be used only for fire watch purposes. Fire watch team members’ regular duties should be suspended temporarily or assigned to other staff for the duration of the fire watch.
 

In the event that community-use activities will take place in the building during a fire watch, the Interagency Coordinating Board for the Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) office will be responsible for:

  • Working with the Division of School Plant Operations to designate the fire watch team,
  • moving the community-use activity to a nearby facility, or
  • canceling the activity for the duration of the fire watch.

The Montgomery County Fire Marshal may modify the parameters of the fire watch depending on the circumstances. Also, Montgomery County fire code regulations require that a fire watch log be completed and maintained during a fire watch. It is recommended that the log be kept in the main office and that the administrator designates an office staff member to maintain the log. Fire watch team members should call into the school’s main office via two-way radio to give their reports every 30 minutes, and the reports must be recorded on the log as soon as received, noting the area checked, time checked, and the name of the fire watch team member who is giving the report.

If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Peter Park, Team Leader, Systemwide Safety Programs, Department of Facilities Management, at 240-314-1070 or via e-mail.

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Prohibited Heat-Producing Appliances in School Buildings

MCPS limits the use of certain heat-producing and non-heat-producing appliances in school buildings, including classrooms and instructional and/or support rooms. The use of microwave ovens, toaster ovens, coffee pots, hot plates, other heat-producing appliances and refrigerators is limited to the following locations within all schools:

  • Designated teacher/staff lounge
  • Designated kitchen area within the school
  • Two or three designated team rooms per floor

Also, the use of heat-producing and non-heat-producing (e.g., mini-refrigerators) appliances in classrooms and instructional and/or support rooms is prohibited within all schools. The prohibited heat‑producing and non-heat-producing appliances include the following:

  • Microwave ovens
  • Toaster ovens or toasters
  • Coffee machines
  • Hot plates
  • Popcorn poppers
  • Electric, charcoal, or gas grills
  • Electric space heaters (temporary basis only)*
  • Dehumidifiers*
  • Air cleaners*
  • Refrigerators
  • Any other appliance prohibited by MCPS

*Allowed only if approved by MCPS Division of Maintenance or Environmental Services/Indoor Air Quality.

Centralizing these appliances reduces risk and safety concerns by controlling access, limits the number of hazard points in the school, and lessens the possibility of misuse. These heat-producing appliances and non-heat-producing appliances are not appropriate in classrooms.

Appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves used for specific day-care groups, kindergarten, or child development programs to keep liquids refrigerated and then heated to a desired temperature (e.g., formula and/or milk for infants) will be allowed in specific day-care rooms, kindergarten classrooms, and child development rooms. This exception will include any appliances mandated to meet medical needs of students and staff.

Adherence to the above limitations and prohibitions will lead to a positive learning and working environment and one that is safe and energy efficient. Centralization, limitation, and prohibition of these heat-producing and non-heat-producing appliances benefit our schools and facilities by reducing energy consumption, reducing the possibility of electrical system overload, or the necessity of increasing electrical capacity. In addition, it is an electrical safety violation to use extension cords or portable power strips (surge protectors/multi-strip plug-in receptacles) as a substitute for permanent wiring when using these appliances. Appliances used in teacher/staff lounges, designated kitchen areas, or two to three designated team rooms per floor must be plugged directly into wall outlets and have ground prongs to be in compliance with electrical safety regulations. All appliances must be Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved.

Heat-producing and non-heat-producing appliances used in the instructional program (hot plates, autoclaves, refrigerators) must be obtained from the MCPS‑approved bid list.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact Mr. Peter Park, Team Leader, Systemwide Safety Programs, Department of Facilities Management, at 240-314-1070 or via e-mail.

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Hand Sanitizer

MCPS is required to comply with fire safety requirements related to alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Requirements include:

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers must be installed in rooms or locations separated from corridors and exits
  • Maximum dispenser capacities are 0.32 gallons (1.2 liters) for rooms or 0.53 gallons (2.0 liters) for dispensers in suites of rooms
  • Dispensers must be separated from each other (horizontally) by at least 48 inches
  • Dispensers may not be placed directly above carpeted floors, except in sprinklered areas
  • Dispensers may not be installed over or adjacent to any ignition sources
  • Quantities of 5 gallons (18.9 liters) or more may not be stored in a single fire compartment (an area enclosed by fire barriers on all sides, top, and bottom)
 

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Portable Fire Extinguishers (PFEs)

All MCPS schools are equipped with portable fire extinguishers (PFEs). PFEs should only be used by trained personnel. Additionally, MCPS discourages employees from attempting to fight fires. If a fire is observed or suspected in a building, all occupants must evacuate immediately and call 911. The county or state requires PFEs in the following locations:

  • All Purpose Room (APR) Stages
  • Art Rooms
  • Auditorium Stages
  • Auto Shops
  • Boiler Rooms
  • Cafeteria Kitchens
  • Family & Consumer Science Rooms
  • Labs (science, tech, etc.)
  • Wood Shops
  • Outdoor concession stands
  • Head Start classrooms

PFEs are not authorized for locations, other than those listed above, in MCPS schools.

Annual inspections are conducted by a contractor; monthly inspections are the school’s responsibility. Building services should:

  • Make sure tag, pin, tamper seal, hose, and nozzle are in place
  • Make sure hose/nozzle are not clogged with paper, pencils, etc.
  • Check for signs of visible damage (corrosion, leaks, dents, etc.)
  • Check the gauge, make sure the needle is in the green operation zone
  • Make sure PFEs are visible and not obstructed
  • Write initials and date on inspection tag

Contact the Division of Maintenance CIP Contracting Office at 301-217-5320 if:

  • PFEs are damaged or low on charge
  • PFEs are missing or improperly mounted
  • There are questions about annual inspections
  • A PFE has been discharged

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Fire Safety Requirements for Summer School Programs

A school housing an academic program running from 1 day to 30 days in length is required to conduct a minimum of one fire evacuation drill. This drill must be reported and logged in the fire drill log. At the end of the summer, this log must be faxed (240-777-2465) or mailed to the fire marshal’s office. Please note: fire drill logs no longer need to be forwarded to the Fire Marshal's Office.

A school housing an academic program running from 31 days to 60 days in length is required to conduct a minimum of two fire evacuation drills. At least one evacuation drill must be conducted in the first 30 days, and the second fire evacuation drill must be conducted in the next 30 days. These fire evacuation drills must be logged and reported as described above.

Schools that are assigned two separate summer school sessions must conduct at least one fire evacuation drill for each session. The fire evacuation drills must be logged and reported as described above.

If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Peter Park, Team Leader, Systemwide Safety Programs, Department of Facilities Management, at 240-314-1070 or via e-mail.

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Daily Fire Safety Inspection

It is the responsibility of each facility’s principal/administrator to ensure daily inspection of the fire alarm control panel, as well as all exits, to ensure their safe operation and clear means of egress. Specific fire safety questions/concerns should be referred to Mr. Peter Park, Team Leader, Systemwide Safety Programs, Department of Facilities Management, at 240-314-1070 or via e-mail or Mr. Darrel I. Caleb, PLAR contracting supervisor, Division of Maintenance, Department of Facilities Management, at 301-217-5320 or via e-mail.

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Open Fires, Flames (Bonfires, Grilling)

Open fires and flames (such as bonfires, grilling or smoking food, candles, torches) are prohibited at MCPS facilities, with the exceptions of routine food preparation, science, and maintenance activities and charcoal grilling that is specifically granted on an individual basis as part of an Adopt-A-Field agreement. See MCPS Regulation EBA-RA, Fire Safety.

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