Fire safety is a primary concern for every school in the country, and even more so at colleges and universities where large numbers of students reside in campus dormitories and apartments. Severe weather and associated fires pose special threats to school communities. Since lightning is the weather hazard that impacts every area of our country, it’s important that school administrators, coaches, emergency managers and security personnel understand this threat and develop a plan to protect students and fortify their school structures.Building & Life Safety campus fire safety monthcampus fire safety month
Here are three questions designed to help schools examine the lightning risk and reduce their exposure:
- Does your school have an evacuation plan in place in case of a lightning fire? If not, make this a priority TODAY! Lightning fires aren’t always visible in their initial stages. A lingering acrid or unusual smell can be evidence of a lightning strike, so it’s important that school safety directors and resident managers check attic and basement spaces right away. In a fire, seconds count, so be sure to investigate a potential lightning strike immediately and call the fire department for expert guidance. School officials and educators seeking information about fire evacuation will want to review these helpful Campus Fire Safety resources.
- Has your school performed a lightning risk assessment or cost-benefit analysis to evaluate lightning protection system (LPS) installations for new construction, building renovation and existing structures? If you’re not sure how to assess or who to consult, the National Fire Protection Association provides resources. Over the years, architects, safety professionals, building owners and property managers have come to rely on is the NFPA Lightning Risk Assessment methodology found in the NFPA 780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems, to determine risk of damage due to lightning. If needed, a LPI-certified lightning protection provider can also assist with risk consultation.
- Is your campus “schooled” in the science of lightning and lightning protection? Don’t wait for a lightning event to test your school’s storm smarts; get enlightened now! The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) provides a wealth of resources for school officials. Visit the LPI website for informational videos and public safety announcements, downloadable brochures, FAQ’s, and an extensive “Library of Resources.”
Finally, if your campus doesn’t have an outdoor lightning safety policy, there’s no time like the present to make sure staff and students take the lightning threat seriously to stay vigilant at sporting and recreation events. Mitigating severe weather threats for large groups of people can be challenging, and implementing a lightning safety policy is no exception. Having a clearly communicated plan and a best-practice policy can go a long way in preventing a devastating lightning tragedy.
For schools seeking preparedness guidance, Earth Networks has compiled a list of Lightning Policy Best Practices for implementing smart approaches to lightning safety.
Are you a student, educator or school official? If so, I invite you to support Campus Fire Safety Month and help raise awareness of fire safety at your school. Visit http://www.campus-firewatch.com/ for additional resources and important safety information.
Looking to learn more about lightning safety and lightning protection? If so, please join me at the Center For Campus Fire Safety Forum on November 13, 2019 in Atlanta, GA.