NASHVILLE – Legislation which seeks to reduce the number of required school fire drills, without undermining the safety of children, is headed to the floor of the Senate for a final vote. Senate Bill 136, sponsored by Senator Ed Jackson (R-Jackson), would decrease the minimum requirement of practice drills to seven drills over a 10-month period.
The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee last Wednesday and could come up for a vote as early as this week.
Jackson said the bill was brought to him by school superintendents. He has worked with school officials, as well as state and local fire marshals in crafting the legislation.
Currently, the state’s requirements are 11 evacuation drills, in addition to other safety drills for earthquakes, bomb threats, intruders and tornadoes, with some schools performing drills about every 11 days.
“The current fire drill requirements were put into place in 1915 before fire safety advances, like sprinklers, fire retardant construction materials, back door escapes and regular fire marshal inspections, were implemented,” said Sen. Jackson. “It was also at a time when wood two-story schools were more common. This legislation continues a rigid fire drill schedule, but allows for instruction in the classroom, which we believe could complement fire safety procedures.”
Under the legislation, the first four fire drills must be complete evacuations, while the remaining three may be executed in the classroom by way of review through any means available to the school.
“The safety of children is paramount in this legislation,” Jackson continued. “We believe we have a bill that accomplishes that goal, but that it also sets a more reasonable number of drills so that needed classroom time will not be interrupted as often.”