The gruesome school fire accident in Kumbakonam, Tanjore district in the year 2004 threw light to the lack of fire safety precautions in schools in India. This accident took the life of 94 children, and it is one of the horrifying fire accidents in India.
The Dabwali fire accident in Haryana district that happened in the year 1998, is another which took away the lives of 540 people which includes 170 children.
These horrifying accidents indicate that the school authorities in India by and large, do not take necessary steps to prevent such disasters.
Why are schools vulnerable to fires?
Schools have a single building or multiple buildings with a large number of children of different age groups. The classrooms have combustible materials like furniture and the labs have chemicals that can easily catch fire. The kitchens in schools have LPG and there are many electrical points that are possible causes for electrical short circuits. So, it is important for the schools to be equipped to prevent such accidents.
What are the most common causes of fire accidents in schools?
The four common causes of school fires are:
- Cooking gas or flammable liquids: Many schools have an in-house kitchen. These kitchens have LPG cylinders that could be stored dangerously.
- Electrical short circuit or heating equipment: Faulty wiring or frayed wires could cause electrical short circuits in schools. Mostly, in modern constructions, these wires are concealed and many times it becomes difficult to track the right source of the fire.
- School Vans are also at risk. Electrical friction is one of the major causes of fire in vans.
- Intentional fires: Children playing with matchsticks or candles. Or by careless disposal of cigarettes by staff.
How can we prevent fire accidents in schools?
1. Fire safety equipment and precautions
The schools should be properly equipped with fire safety equipment. Every floor must have a fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, and sprinklers. The condition of the equipment must be periodically monitored by the school authorities. The school authorities in India must also make sure that the schools’ buildings are constructed as per the latest NCB guidelines.
School vans also need to be equipped with fire extinguishers. The van staff and the driver should be aware of how to use it in case of emergency.
2. Fire safety drills
Fire safety drills for the school children help to educate them on what they to do in case of fire. These drills must be conducted once a month. With the help of these drills, children are much aware of the safety protocols and help in the orderly evacuation. The students and staff must be able to recognize the sound of the fire alarm and what they should do when it sounds.
The school teachers and staff must be aware of the fire safety system. They should be aware of the location of the fire alarms and extinguishers. The safety drills must be conducted at both expected and unexpected times. Safety drills must also include school vans in which children travel to school.
3. Fire safety audit
Fire safety audit should also be conducted periodically. The audit ensures escape planning, placement of exit doors, the method of evacuation, and placement of fire safety equipment. This helps schools to be properly equipped anytime.
4. Clear exit paths
The fire exit paths in the school should always be clutter free. The path should not be blocked and every room in the school must have two ways out. All the exit paths should be obvious and wide enough for orderly evacuation.
5. Safe meeting point
There should be a safe meeting point for all the students outside the building. In case of mock drills or emergency evacuation, the students must assemble at this point until they are given all clear.
Fire safety in schools, unfortunately, is overlooked very often by the government and the parents. It is important for parents to check the fire safety of the building before admitting their children to a new school. Having said that, it is also important to practice home fire safety with kids. This ensures that they are prepared to handle emergency situations that can happen anywhere.
Picture Source: DNA India, pixabay