Fire Safety in Schools: A Safety Inspection Checklist (2023)

Learn the school fire safety requirements outlined in NFPA model codes

One of the greatest fire tragedies in U.S. history happened in a school. The year was 1958, and the building lacked the fire protection features that make strong fire safety in schools commonplace today:

It had no sprinkler system or smoke detectors. The two fire alarms weren’t connected to the local fire station, and neither was located in the part of the school where the fire started. Fire extinguishers were stored in wall wells seven feet above the floor that most adults couldn’t reach.

The school’s interior was almost entirely made of combustibles—everything from the stairs to the floors to the walls were constructed of wood. The floors had been recoated many times with flammable petroleum-based waxes. The roof wasn’t vented and had been repeatedly sealed with tar paper, causing it to burn faster. Fire doors only protected part of the second floor—and they were propped open to enable students to easily pass during the school day. The other staircases were open, with nothing to hinder the spread of the fire.

The fire started in a barrel of oily rags in the basement level of the two-story building. As the fire grew and the smoke worked its way through the stairs and cracks in the wood floor, teachers and students on the first level made their way out. The fire alarm didn’t work when it was tripped, and by the time the second-floor occupants were aware of the incident, they were out of time. Panicked students tried to get out any way they could, including jumping out of the windows. In total, 92 children and three adults were killed in the Our Lady of Angels school fire.

The tragedy resulted in widespread fire safety reforms and code updates governing schools. Today, schools are much safer; the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that between 2013-2017, school fires accounted for an annual average of “one civilian death” and “42 civilian injuries.” The most common losses in school fires are financial, representing about $42 million per year in damage. These fires are most often caused by arson and account for more than 3,000 fire department responses annually.

The relative lack of injuries and fatalities that we experience in U.S. school fires stems from the modern fire protection codes and standards that have been developed and enforced in these occupancies. Codes for educational occupancies in most states and jurisdictions are based on the model codes created by NFPA. Specifically, chapter 14 of NFPA 101: Life Safety Code outlines the minimum fire protection and life safety requirements for educational occupancies.

NFPA 101 defines educational occupancies as any building “used for educational purposes through the twelfth grade by six or more persons for 4 or more hours per day or more than 12 hours per week” ( This definition is expanded to include all preschools and kindergartens that meet specific criteria:

(1) The purpose is primarily educational, even though the children who attend such schools are of preschool age.

(2) The children are all 24 months of age or older.

(Video) Fire Prevention Inspection - Introduction Self-Inspection Checklist

In essence, if a school has six or more students between 24 months old and various ages in the 12th grade, NFPA rules apply. Here are the major NFPA requirements for life and fire safety in schools:

School facilities and space requirements

The first step in determining code requirements involves assessing the capacity of the facility. This is accomplished by calculating the occupant load of the space—how large the area needs to be based on the potential number of people in the school (NFPA 101: The code requires at least 20 square feet per person.

For example, if a school has 50 students and staff, it needs a minimum area of 1,000 square feet. If it is an 8,000 square-foot facility, it can potentially host up to 400 people.

Fire Safety in Schools: A Safety Inspection Checklist (1)

Space requirements are a crucial consideration, as the code also provides guidance on where and how students can be located. Classrooms for younger children must be on or closer to the ground floor to make evacuation easier.

  • Classrooms for preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade students must be located on the level of exit discharge.
  • Classrooms for second-grade students can be located no more than one floor above the level of exit discharge.

NFPA defines the level of exit discharge as follows:

From the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 Level of Exit Discharge. The story that is either (1) the lowest story from which not less than 50 percent of the required number of exits and not less than 50 percent of the required egress capacity from such a story discharge directly outside at the finished ground level; or (2) where no story meets the conditions of item (1), the story that is provided with one or more exits that discharge directly to the outside to the finished ground level via the smallest elevation change.

When flexible or open plans are utilized, and there are more than 300 students per room, a minimum of two separate means of egress (evacuation) are required. These two means of escape must open to separate atmospheres. Additionally, all of the various floor plans and configurations must be reviewed and approved by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ; often, your local fire marshal).

Learn more about who and what an AHJ is by reading this.

(Video) Fire Safety Checklist

NFPA defines “flexible plan and open plan” structures as follows:

From the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 Flexible Plan and Open Plan Educational or Day-Care Building. A building or portion of a building designed for multiple teaching stations.

A. Flexible Plan and Open Plan Educational or Day-Care Building. Flexible plan buildings have movable corridor walls and movable partitions of full-height construction with doors leading from rooms to corridors. Open plan buildings have rooms and corridors delineated by tables, chairs, desks, bookcases, counters, low-height partitions, or similar furnishings. It is the intent that low-height partitions not exceed 60 in.

School fire safety equipment required by NFPA

Fire detection, fire sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers are all required in most educational occupancies, with some exceptions for the first two items.

Fire Safety in Schools: A Safety Inspection Checklist (2)

Fire alarm systems

Most educational facilities need to have a fire alarm system. But small facilities that meet all of these criteria may not require one:

  • The building must not be larger than 1,000 square feet
  • The building must contain only a single classroom
  • The building must be located no closer than 30 feet from another building

Examples of this type of structure are mobile or portable buildings that serve as a classroom, spaced at least 30 feet apart. But outside of these exemptions, a fire alarm system is required.

School administrators and facility managers should consult with their authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and a third-party fire safety expert. There are specific fire alarm design components that may be required—and various exceptions that may be allowed—in a facility. These details may include the elimination of manual alarm pull stations, or the addition of a mass notification or emergency voice/alarm communication system (EVACS).

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From the 2019 edition of NFPA 72 In-Building Fire Emergency/Voice Alarm Communications System. Dedicated manual or automatic equipment for originating and distributing voice instructions, as well as alert and evacuation signals pertaining to a fire emergency, to the occupants of a building. In-Building Mass Notification System. A system used to provide information and instruction to people in a building(s) or other space using intelligible voice communications and including visual signals, text, graphics, tactile, or other communication methods.

Automatic fire sprinkler systems

All educational buildings that are larger than 1,000 square feet and contain multiple rooms must have an automatic fire sprinkler system. Buildings with less square footage and those that have a single room do not require fire sprinklers.

In addition, all kitchens and cooking appliances must be protected with a special hood and fire suppression system. These systems must meet the requirements outlined in NFPA 96: Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations.

Fire Safety in Schools: A Safety Inspection Checklist (3)

Fire extinguishers

There are no exceptions here. Both section of NFPA 1: Fire Code and section 906.1 of the International Fire Code (IFC) require fire extinguishers to be installed throughout the building. Their placement and number are based on a variety of factors, chiefly the size and layout of the facility. Fire extinguishers must be selected, installed, tested, and maintained following the requirements outlined in NFPA 10: Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, as well as any specific local laws.

Fire Safety in Schools: A Safety Inspection Checklist (4)

Operations and planning for life and fire safety in schools

All schools are required to have an emergency action plan (EAP) in place. This plan must be submitted, reviewed, and approved by the local AHJ.

The EAP outlines the actions that must occur in various types of emergencies. While preparing this document, make sure to consider common emergencies and specific types that may be unique to your area. For example, hurricane preparedness should be considered by schools in Florida, but it’s not relevant for schools in Michigan. Minimally, the following information is required in the EAP:

  1. A procedure for reporting emergencies
  2. Outlining occupant and staff response to emergencies
  3. Evacuation, relocation, and shelter-in-place procedures
  4. Detailing the appropriate use of elevators
  5. The design and conduct of fire drills
  6. The types and coverage areas of building fire protection systems
  7. Any other information required by the local jurisdiction and relevant fire authority

Administrators should define who will head up the EAP-creation process, what each staff position will be responsible for in an emergency event, and the availability or cost of any necessary emergency preparedness items.

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All educational facilities are required to conduct and document fire and emergency egress drills. Fire drills must be done at least once per month when school is in session. NFPA requires that all building occupants participate, and all alarms must be sounded.

Also, a staff member must conduct a brief inspection of all exit areas. This inspection should be documented and ensure that all stairwells, doors, and other exit passageways are clear, unobstructed, and in proper working condition.

Every great teacher is proud of their students’ accomplishments, and they love to show off this work by posting it on walls. But art and paper products are highly flammable and can contribute to rapid fire growth. Thus, the walls should be inspected as well. Code allows only 20% of a wall area to be covered with these items. But if a fire sprinkler system is installed, then this coverage can be increased to 50% of the wall area.

Fire safety in schools requires a team approach—our school fire and life safety inspection checklist can help

Schools must remain a safe place for learning and development. But ensuring a secure environment requires everyone—the administration, teachers, staff, parents, and students—to play a role in fire safety. From having the right fire suppression systems in place to conducting drills and ensuring egress paths are clear, compliance with local and model fire codes is essential.

QRFS exists to help facility managers and fire safety professionals meet fire protection goals. We carry a full line of fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, sprinkler system components, fire safety signage, and much more to help you achieve a compliant and safe facility.

Our downloadable school fire and life safety checklist can serve as a handy guide to major NFPA requirements. It lists significant requirements in NFPA 101, as well as various installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements covered in:

  • NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems
  • NFPA 96: Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations
  • NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®
  • NFPA 10: Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers

Please note that there are other potential requirements and variations in both model and local codes. Always consult with your local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to determine the exact rules that your school must follow.

Download the QRFS School Fire and Life Safety Checklist to review the basic NFPA inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements.

If you have questions, call us at+1 (888) 361-6662 or email[emailprotected].

(Video) Dan Doofus Checks His Fire Safety Checklist

This blog was originally posted If this article helped you, check us out on Twitter@QuickResponseFS.


What should be included in a safety checklist? ›

What should be included on the checklist?
  • Environment. dust, gases, fumes, sprays, lighting, noise, ventilation.
  • Buildings. windows, doors, floors, stairs, roofs, walls, elevators.
  • Containers. ...
  • Electrical. ...
  • Fire protection equipment. ...
  • Hand tools. ...
  • Hazardous products. ...
  • Materials handling.

What is the purpose of safety checklist? ›

Safety checklists provide a tool for determining possible workplace hazards and should be completed during inspections, reported on, used as a basis for safety recommendations and filed for record-keeping purposes.

How often should a fire risk assessment be carried out in a school? ›

So what approach should you be taking to make sure you're doing your fire risk assessments frequently enough? The pragmatic approach is generally accepted to be aiming to do a formal review once a year that checks whether your fire risk assessment is still highlighting and addressing all possible fire risks.

Who is responsible for fire risk assessment in schools? ›

Anyone who has control over the premises is responsible for completing Fire Risk Assessments, whether that's an individual or part of a team for one particular area.

What is safety inspection checklist? ›

What is a Safety Inspection Checklist? Safety inspection checklists are paper-based or digitized forms used by safety officers to inspect and identify workplace hazards that can cause potential harm to people, processes, and the environment.

What is the inspection checklist? ›

An inspection checklist, when used properly, is an assurance that a particular piece of equipment has been inspected. As each item on the checklist is ticked off, the person doing the inspection is verifying that each component of the equipment is in correct working order.

What is the importance of inspection? ›

Inspections are critical to ensure consistent product quality, primarily when relying on third-party suppliers or manufacturers for raw materials. Some businesses often consider inspection as a final quality check before the product gets delivered to the customer.

What makes a good checklist? ›

Gawande says a good checklist is precise, efficient, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. It should provide reminders of only the most important steps, rather than trying to spell out everything—after all, a checklist can't do your job for you. And above all, a checklist should be practical.

What is the purpose of inspection? ›

To inspect is to carefully examine. The main objective of inspection is to meet customer requirements, wants, and needs. The objective is to prevent defective product flowing down the successive operations and prevent loss to the company.

How we can ensure fire safety in school? ›

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.

Is a fire risk assessment a legal requirement? ›

A Fire Risk Assessment is a legal requirement. If you are responsible for a building, for example a employer, owner or occupier of premises that aren't a 'single private dwelling' (a private home), you need to make sure a suitably competent person completes a Fire Risk Assessment.

How often should fire safety checks be done? ›

Fire alarm system

Fire alarms should be tested in line with BS5839-1:2017, usually every 6 months or quarterly according to the size of your premises. This involves testing all of your alarm devices throughout a twelve month period, along with door closers & smoke vents.

Why is fire safety important in schools? ›

Fire buildings is considered as one of the most common and the most devastating disasters and emergencies. Saving school buildings against incidents such as fire is very important since students are so vulnerable to incidents especially fire.

What do you do in case of fire at school? ›

NOT FIGHT the fire if it is spreading rapidly or blocking your exit. If you do not know how to use the fire equipment, leave the building immediately. Close room doors and hallway doors to prevent air movement and spread of smoke. judgment is extremely important and will prevent panic.

What are the 4 types of fire risk assessment? ›

Fire Risk Assessment Types
  • Type 1 Fire Risk Assessment: Common parts only (non-destructive) ...
  • Type 2 Fire Risk Assessment: Common parts only (destructive) ...
  • Type 3 Fire Risk Assessment: Common parts and flats (non-destructive) ...
  • Type 4 Fire Risk Assessment: Common parts and flats (destructive)

How do I prepare for an inspection checklist? ›

How to prepare a Quality Checklist Template
  1. Start with inspection checklist templates.
  2. Customize checklists for your project and scope of work.
  3. Prepare project-specific checklists "just-in-time"
  4. Keep checklists short and focused.
  5. Organize checklists the way you will inspect.
  6. Refine your checklists continuously.

Why are checklists used in inspections? ›

Checklists. A checklist helps to clarify inspection responsibilities, controls inspection activities and provides a report of inspection activities. Checklists help with on-the-spot recording of findings and comments but be careful.

What are the advantages of using a safety inspection checklist? ›

A safety audit checklist allows you to conduct a much easier examination of all possible hazards in the workplace. It also helps your personnel know what corrective actions should be taken to fix potential problems.

What is safety inspection? ›

A safety inspection is an on-site walk through to identify potential hazards to occupants and personnel and options for remedial action. Safety inspections are also important for property insurance issues.

What are the things to consider in doing safety inspection maintenance? ›

The items on this list include the following:
  • Administrative requirements for record-keeping.
  • General safety and health provisions.
  • PPE and life-saving equipment management.
  • Fire protection guidelines.
  • Signs, signals and barricades to prevent accidents.
  • Proper materials handling, storage, use and disposal.

What is the purpose of school inspection? ›

School inspection plays a significant role in ensuring the quality of education, as it is almost the sole method by which governments can ensure and evaluate the quality of education. Moreover, governments are unable to implement the national policies and goals without school inspection.

What is school inspection? ›

definition. Inspection is a general examination of an organizational unit, issue or practice to ascertain the extent it adheres to normative standards, good practices or other criteria and to make recommendations for improvement or corrective action.

What are the three types of safety inspections? ›

3 common types of safety inspection
  • Safety inspection checklist. As the name implies, a checklist is created for regular safety inspection of specific elements that facilitate the inspection process and prevent forgetting crucial steps. ...
  • Safety inspection walkthrough. ...
  • Safety inspection risk mapping.
2 Jan 2022

What is checklist example? ›

A checklist is a type of job aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention. It helps to ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task. A basic example is the "to do list".

How do you manage a checklist? ›

  1. Start with a clear goal statement. ...
  2. Define your stakeholders. ...
  3. Determine your deliverables. ...
  4. Figure out the resources required to complete the project. ...
  5. Map out your schedule and milestones. ...
  6. Hash out your project budget (including direct and indirect costs) ...
  7. Run a risk assessment to avoid roadblocks.
21 Sept 2021

Why are checklists important for teachers? ›

Like checklists for students and surgeons, checklists for new, untrained teachers make explicit the most important behaviors that they can follow and enact. Checklists break complex tasks into more basic, discrete and doable procedures. They help teachers stay on task and assess their performance against the checklist.

What are the 4 types of inspections? ›

In quality control, there are 4 types of quality inspections, namely: pre-production inspection, during production inspection, pre-shipment inspection, and container loading/unloading inspections. Each of these types of inspection has its own purpose.

What are the advantages of school inspection? ›

Inspectors of schools are relevant to ensure that each strategy with a set of its activities and role for the teacher and students are carried out. Each strategy has a logical sequence which is necessary if students are to accomplish the objective of the lesson.

What are the five 5 types of inspection? ›

Types of inspection and methods of quality control inspections differ for a reason so it's good to know the details.
  • Sample Checking.
  • Pre-Production Inspections (PPI)
  • During Production Inspection (DPI)
  • Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI)
  • Piece by Piece Inspection (or Sorting Inspection)
  • Metal Detection.
17 Sept 2020

What items might be included on a checklist used to evaluate a workplace for safety every day? ›

General Industry Workplace Safety Checklist
  • Building evacuation drawings with exits, pathways and emergency gathering space marked.
  • Fire doors to equipment room and storage marked and in good working order.
  • Non-exit doorways clearly marked.
  • Exterior roof access.
7 Sept 2017

What is a fire safety checklist? ›

1) Are flammable materials correctly stored? 2) Is all electrical equipment correctly wired and earthed? 3) Is all wiring & equipment in good condition? 4) Are electric heaters clear of flammable material?

What is laboratory safety checklist? ›

A laboratory safety checklist, or lab safety checklist, is utilized by lab supervisors and safety officers to identify and minimize chemical, biological, physical and radioactive hazards present in laboratory facilities at schools and hospitals, among others.

What is a home safety checklist? ›

Home Safety Checklist for Children

Never leave young children unattended. Cover all unused electrical sockets and keep electrical cords out of children's reach. Install protective padding on the corners of furniture with sharp edges. Use safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers.

How do I prepare for an inspection checklist? ›

How to prepare a Quality Checklist Template
  1. Start with inspection checklist templates.
  2. Customize checklists for your project and scope of work.
  3. Prepare project-specific checklists "just-in-time"
  4. Keep checklists short and focused.
  5. Organize checklists the way you will inspect.
  6. Refine your checklists continuously.

What are the safety inspection procedures? ›

The inspection process involves three main steps: i. identifying any hazards ii. assessing the risks, and iii. controlling the risks (with corrective actions using the hierarchy of controls).

What is the importance of inspection? ›

Inspections are critical to ensure consistent product quality, primarily when relying on third-party suppliers or manufacturers for raw materials. Some businesses often consider inspection as a final quality check before the product gets delivered to the customer.

What is fire risk assessment checklist? ›

What Is a Fire Risk Assessment Checklist? A fire risk assessment is conducted by a business's responsible person(s) to identify hazards and risks. If you manage a commercial premises, you are required by law to carry out fire risk assessments and to keep a written record of the findings.

How many steps are in the fire safety assessment checklist? ›

5-step checklist to help people responsible for business premises to complete a fire safety risk assessment.

How many steps are in a fire safety risk assessment checklist? ›

Five steps to a risk assessment
  • Step 1 - Identify people at risk. Have you identified who is at risk? ...
  • Step 2 - Identify fire hazards. Have you identified all potential fuel sources? ...
  • Step 3 - Evaluate the risk. Are your fire safety measures are adequate? ...
  • Step 4 - Record your findings. ...
  • Step 5 - Review and revise.
8 Dec 2021

What is laboratory inspection? ›

Inspections are conducted to assist responsible faculty and staff in identifying and correcting potential health and safety hazards and to identify unreasonable risks to laboratory personnel, students, and the campus community.

What is laboratory safety equipment? ›

Bandages, scissors, tweezers, hand sanitizer, antibiotic ointment, etc. should be included in each of the kits. Fire Extinguisher: Laboratories are required to have multiple extinguishers. There are several types of extinguishers a lab should are available such as water-based, AFFF Foam and Wet Chemical Extinguishers.

How do you minimize hazards in the laboratory before during and after the experiment? ›

Avoid direct contact with any chemical. Never smell, inhale or taste laboratory chemicals. Always wash hands and arms with soap and water after removing gloves and before leaving the work area. Never eat, drink, chew gum or tobacco, smoke or apply cosmetics in the laboratory.

What is basic home safety? ›

Install safety latches and locks. Install window guards on every window. Make sure one window in each room can be used as a fire exit. Install safety gates. Bar the top and bottom of stairs.

Why is safety important at home? ›

Importance of Safety At Home

Importance of home safety is synonymous to the importance of practicing safety in its entirety. Keeping your home free of dangers and equipped with home safety products can prevent mundane accidents such as falls and can protect you from emergencies like fires.


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