Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
May 2004
End of the School Year Is the Perfect Time to Review Rules

It won't be long until the last school bell of the year rings and students head off for the summer, so it's a good time to take a look at improving fire prevention in schools. Changes to the Fire Prevention Code in December 2001 were aimed at reducing potential fire hazards. However, in these tight budget times, how can we work together to achieve these goals without jeopardizing the primary goals of education?

Fire departments and schools need to come together and proactively develop solutions that work. We'll touch on some of these issues in this article, but each situation is unique. Please be aware that local municipal ordinances may add further requirements. And keep in mind that any changes in the design and construction of a building to meet the safety requirements must be made in consultation with both the building and fire inspectors.

Coats In Corridors?
In Wisconsin, it's hard to ignore the fact that winter will come and warm coats and boots will be needed. The code requirement about coats in corridors does not ignore that fact, and it isn't intended that outerwear should now be stored in classrooms.

At the same time, we need to consider the fire and egress hazards posed by coats in corridors. Such items are not prohibited by the code, but there are specific mitigating factors that need to be in place to allow coats in the corridors of a school. There are three exceptions in the code:

(1) Corridors that are protected by automatic sprinkler systems.
(2) Corridors protected by a smoke detection system that is attached to the school fire alarm.
(3) Metal lockers for storage of clothing and personal effects.

School administrators may want to look at all three options to see what is most cost effective for their situation.

Although these are the official Wisconsin fire code references, municipalities are allowed to adopt stricter ordinances than the code, including those contained in the International Fire Code (IFC). Some schools may have additional requirements based on local ordinances.

Artwork And Other Flammable Materials Displayed On Walls Of Schools?
Educational institutions train teachers to put displays on the walls of their classrooms and, in fact, teachers love to inspire students with seasonal or theme displays. Wisconsin's fire code requires those flammable materials such as student artwork or displays should not cover more than 20% of any wall in an educational facility. How do we meet the needs of fire safety while not impacting the educational environment? Teachers can use materials that not flammable or have flame retardant coating, and plan the displays of flammable materials so they cover only a 20% portion of the classroom walls.

Fire Drills?
With the end of the school year approaching, time for reporting on school fire drills is near. Wisconsin's Fire Service is accustomed to fire drills (emergency egress and relocation drills) being done primarily in schools throughout the state. Schools must keep records and submit one copy to Commerce and one copy to the fire chief each year by June 30th. Fire inspectors should be checking during their twice-yearly inspections that the records are being kept and any problems with the drills are addressed.

Information needed for the records:
  • Day, month and time of day of each drill
  • Name of the responsible party in each school building for planning and executing the drills
  • Notes of and problems uncovered.
  • List any special concerns that the fire department needs to be aware of when the department responds to the school.

Fire drill (emergency egress and relocation) forms are provided by Commerce directly to each school in the late summer for the following school year.

Addendum for the Dispatcher Only
On June 25th at the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs' Association Meeting in LaCrosse Cathy Cliff will be presenting a session on the new 2% Audit Process entitled: "2% Audits - Let's Not Use the 'F' Word (Failure)." This will be a good session for you to learn about how to understand and comply with the new 2% Fire Dues Audits process to begin in 2005.

-- Cathy Cliff

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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