Fire Safety and Bulletin Boards: What is the Law?
By Alan Haskvitz
National Teachers Hall of Fame
For more free education news go to http://reacheverychild.com/blog/2014/not-so-secret-formula-improves-writing

Sadly, one of the great traditions of most classrooms are paper decorations. Sometimes, these are even hung from the ceilings as well as available walls. The reason that it is sad is for two reasons. First, it is probably against the law. Secondly, teachers have probably spent a great deal of their time and own money to decorate the bulletin boards. Making the classroom meet fire regulations does not mean it has to be without decoration if the teacher uses fire retardant materials that meet the fire code. With the emphasis on quality the postings l should relate to the current topic or items used throughout the year such as steps to writing an essay, classroom rules, or how to solve an equation postings. Again, unless the student has done the work on fire resistant paper it must fall within the fire regulations in terms of space allowed for such postings.

Another area of concern is upholstered furniture in the classroom. It is not recommended unless it has been treated. Open flames are also a concern. I have seen many classrooms where the teacher has tried ot make the room more user friendly and placed sofas so that the students could have a more home-like atmosphere to read or work. Unless these have been teated these may be illegal, according to the fire code.

One of my most popular blogs was a listing of how to decorate bulletin boards with photos from teachers around the country. You can still see many teachers who have posted them on sites such as Instagram or Pinterest. Take a long look at these and you can see how talented teachers, but also remind yourself that a bulletin board must be legal. I am not telling you to tear down your bulletin boards, I am providing you with the law and you need to check with your administrator to see if it is the same in your community.

I don’t want to be a kill-joy about this issue and some teachers have voiced their concerns:
http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2003/09/04/new_fire_codes_dampen_classroom_decor/
But the reality is that safety is the overriding concern and there is still space allowed for decorations. This district uses 20 percent as a legal figure http://www.kimberly.edu/index.php/staff-resources/161-classroom-safety.html

Here are some sites that I recommend you or your administrator check. Please note this posting:
“Flammable material coverage. No more than 25% of any wall in a classroom shall be covered with a flammable material. In a corridor there may be only a 4 foot by 8 foot section of a corridor wall covered, with a 50 foot separation of wall space between each section.”

Making it Acceptable

Despite this there may be a way to make your classroom acceptable to the Fire Marshall. It is called fire-retardant chemicals or paper. Of course, you need to check with an administrator who needs to check with the fire officials, but it could make your bulletin boards compliant. Naturally there is a cost which, hopefully, the district should absorb. There are also variety of fire retardant paper that can be used.
http://www.vvdailypress.com/articles/teachers-14291-chemicals-victorville.htm

Or you can try and make fire resistant paper yourself.I have not done this so you are on your own.
http://makezine.com/2012/11/12/how-to-fireproof-paper/

Fire Restrictions on Classrooms

A school district site with a listing of fire rules
http://www.grand.k12.ut.us/district/fire.htm

This is a listing of rules for various states and includes rules on door locking.
Most of these links are printable.
http://www.ncef.org/rl/fire_safety.cfm

Warnings about upholstered furniture in classrooms and more
http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/insurance/faq/riskcontrol/

From North Carolina
http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/insurance/faq/riskcontrol/

Here is a list of ways to get most out of legal bulletin board space
http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/733

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