Don’t forget fire safety as your COVID-19-reconfigured school opens — tips from NFPA

by Brianna Crandall — September 18, 2020 — With many schools reopening at least partially after the COVID-19 shutdowns, complete with major reconfigurations and new coronavirus protocols, the global nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed a new fact sheet to make sure fire safety remains a priority.

The Building and Life Safety Issues for Safely Reopening Schools fact sheet provides fire and life safety considerations for building modifications such as door operability, classroom usage, seating arrangements, and partitions, as well egress management and storage of hand sanitizer and cleaning products.

Kristin Bigda, technical lead for building and life safety at NFPA, stated:

School and local officials are working diligently to implement measures that help minimize exposure to and spread of COVID-19. While much emphasis has understandably been placed on associated issues and concerns, it’s critical that adequate levels of fire and life safety continue to be maintained.

Many of the issues addressed in the fire safety fact sheet require review and input from the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), as all changes and modifications must be implemented in accordance with local codes and standards. School fire drills are also briefly covered in the fact sheet, but more specific details around these requirements, as outlined in NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, are covered in a separate resource: Building and Life Safety: Requirements for Emergency Egress Drills.

Bigda continued:

The risk of fires and other emergencies has not disappeared in the midst of the pandemic. It’s imperative that measures remain in place to adequately protect students, faculty and staff from these potential threats, even at a time when they’re not necessarily at the forefront of many people’s minds.

The Building and Life Safety Issues for Safely Reopening Schools fact sheet is available from the NFPA website.

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA says it remains committed to supporting people with the resources they need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, visit the group’s website.