Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
November 2003
Fire Drills in Wisconsin Schools: an Opportunity for Excellence
Recently-released statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show a 6.7-percent decrease in educational institution fires from 2001-02. Unfortunately, there were still 7,000 estimated fires that occurred. (NFPA Journal September/October 2003).

School fire drills have long been a fixture in Wisconsin schools; the current law dates back to the Wisconsin Industrial Commission and was passed in 1927. Fire drill requirements for schools are found in s. 118.07, Wis. Stats., administered by the Department of Public Instruction, and Ch. Comm. 14, Wis. Adm. Code.

  • Drills are required to be held once a month when school is in session.
  • Drills deferred due to inclement weather must be held at a later date.  A school must hold four drills before any are deferred.  Nine months of school requires nine drills.
  • The local fire department should be present for a minimum of one drill per year.
  • Fire drill report forms must be completed and filed with Commerce and the local fire department having jurisdiction. A review of fire drill report forms should be part of all school fire inspections.
  • Drills are to be started with a fire alarm signal or system.
  • All exit access corridors, exits and exit discharges should be unobstructed and all exit hardware working. School officials shall check on a daily basis for obstructions, non-working door hardware, and other items that are liable to cause fire or contribute to its spread.

Specifics of drills are often a local matter. Some fire departments conduct unannounced drills by entering the building and asking the principal to pull the alarm. Some fire departments block exits with cardboard designed to resemble fire flames. Some fire departments take one student out of the class to see if the staff can find the "missing" student.

The state’s schools and the Fire Service of Wisconsin have the same goal - to protect our children. For information about fire drills at your local schools, contact the principal or your local fire department.

--John Andersen

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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