ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota schools are some of the safest in the country when it comes to fires, according to a new report released today by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (DPS-SFMD).
Minnesota’s annual average of 43 school fires is 47 percent lower than the national average of 81, according to the “Minnesota School Fire Report.”
The report also shows that since the DPS-SFMD School Inspection Program began in 1990:
- The annual average number of school fires in Minnesota has dropped from 90 (1990-1994) to 41 (2010-2014).
- From 2009-2013, Minnesota’s school fire loss has decreased by just over 70 percent to $3,201 per fire, while the national average has increased 50 percent to $17,241 per fire. Minnesota’s average loss per school fire is about 81 percent lower than the national average.
“School is like a second home to most children, and we’re proud that they care about fire safety,” State Fire Marshal Bruce West said. “Our inspectors work hard with local officials so they understand how to prevent fires in their schools. These numbers show that our partnership is working to reduce these incidents around the state.”
Key findings from the report
- Apart from insufficient exits, unprotected corridors and stairways were the most significant and costly corrections school officials had to make when DPS-SFMD inspectors first started visiting schools.
- As the inspection program has progressed, less serious issues are more common such as improper use of extension cords and other routine maintenance issues that are relatively easy and inexpensive to fix.
- Almost 60 percent of Minnesota school fires happen in middle schools, junior high schools and high schools.
- These buildings tend to have more hazardous operations or activities such as science experiments, shops, or large-scale cooking operations.
- Secondary school-age children are more likely to engage in firesetting.
- Secondary schools tend to be larger in size.
- The most fires occur in February and May and on Thursdays.
- Almost 33 percent of school fires started in bathrooms or locker rooms. Other common areas include heating/mechanical spaces and classrooms (11 percent each).
School fire safety: What you can do
Kids may know how to escape their burning home, but may not have the same understanding about their school. State law requires schools to conduct at least five fire drills per school year, but that’s only one part of school fire and emergency preparedness.
Teachers and parents should talk to their students and children about fire drills and make sure they take them seriously.
- Students should be familiar with, and strictly follow, their school’s fire safety and evacuation procedures.
- Students must never assume a fire alarm is a false alarm, even when there’s no apparent signs of fire.
- When outside of normal classroom hours, students should know where to go and who to report to when the fire alarm sounds.
- Following an emergency evacuation, students should immediately report to their assigned meeting location and be sure their attendance is recorded by school staff.
- School activities requiring the use of hazardous materials, open flame or heat producing appliances should only be done under direct supervision.
Parents should also talk to their children about the dangers and power of fire, and teach them safe behaviors.
- Set a good example by installing and maintaining smoke alarms.
- Take responsibility for fire safety by pointing out fire safety and fire prevention rules and discussing the dangers of fire.
- Control access to fire by keeping all ignition devices out of reach of children. Teach them to notify an adult if they find things like matches or lighters.
- Check in trashcans, under beds and in closets for burned matches or other evidence your child is misusing fire. If you find evidence, use it as a teaching opportunity.
About the Minnesota Department of Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement
About the State Fire Marshal Division
The mission of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division is to protect lives and property by fostering a fire-safe environment through fire/arson investigation, code development and
enforcement, regulation, data collection and public education. Data collected by the State Fire Marshal Division from fire departments statewide is analyzed and used to determine the best methods of public education and enforcement to improve fire safety in our state.