In the News: An unvented clothes dryer was the cause of a fire that killed three young children, one just three months old, in an unlicensed daycare, authorities said. The retired teacher who ran the daycare eventually died after pulling other children out of her burning home. Another suffered permanent brain damage, while the two other were listed as fair.
Childcare Fire Statistics
Fires are a major concern in the United States. The US Fire Administration claims an estimated 325 fires occur in daycares annually. Designing and regularly practicing a fire-specific emergency action plan is one of the simplest ways to save lives if a fire breaks out in your facility.
Making a Fire Evacuation Plan
Evacuating any business during an emergency is a difficult task. Did everyone make it out okay? Were there any visitors in the building? Who called in sick today? Each of these questions requires a quick and accurate answer, even in the midst of chaos. When children are thrown into the fray, the difficulty grows exponentially. As was the case in the story above, a fire can rip through a building in a matter of minutes. There’s no room for error or second-guessing; difficult decisions must be made on a moment’s notice. A well-practiced evacuation plan can be the difference between life and death.
Planning & Preparation
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. As mentioned earlier, there’s no time to waste when disaster strikes. There is often very little time to strategize; therefore, everyone must understand their roles. Consider completing these tasks in preparation of a disaster:
- Identify which caregiver will be responsible for which children. Ideally, any children who are not walking should be assigned evenly among all employees.
- Complete an employee and parent phone tree and place multiple copies throughout the facility. Update this list quarterly.
- Identify at least two exits from every room in the facility. Keep in mind that a window may be the only option in some scenarios. If necessary, how will children be safely evacuated from a window?
- Designate primary and secondary assembly locations. Will parents know where to find you?
- Locate each fire extinguisher in the facility and discuss proper use with employees. Here are some tips on exactly how to use a fire extinguisher.
- Practice fire drills on a monthly basis. Get the local fire department involved annually.
- All drills should be unannounced to employees.
- Add variety to each drill. Vary the time of day and day of the week. Also consider blocking off different routes or exits so employees are prepared for anything.
- Time the drill from the moment it’s announced to the moment everyone is a safe distance from the daycare. Ideally, the building should be fully evacuated in less than three minutes.
During a Fire Emergency
The odds are slim that things will happen exactly as you planned during an emergency. Remaining calm and following protocol as closely as possible are the best ways to stay safe.
- Rescue any children or staff in immediate danger.
- Sound the appropriate alarm and begin evacuating the building.
- If plausible, contain the fire by closing doors to the fire area.
- Call 911 from a secure location.
- DO NOT re-enter the building until the fire department says it’s safe to do so.
After a Fire Emergency
Once it appears all children and employees have safely evacuated the home or facility, begin checking the attendance roster. After accounting for any discrepancies, begin contacting parents. After the authorities and the children’s parents have been contacted, call your independent insurance agent to begin the claims process.