News 3 Investigates: Increase in fire code violations in Muscogee County schools

A News 3 investigation reveals an increase in fire safetyviolations in Muscogee County Schools. News 3 sorted through hundreds of schoolfire inspection reports and found violations have risen every year since 2010.

Muscogee County Schools had over 500 fire hazards listedin reports last year, including several concerning infractions – problems withfire alarm systems, missing extinguishers, and blocked emergency exits.

Lieutenant Bruce Powell performs about 50 school fireinspections a year. He checks every fire extinguisher, emergency exit, andclassroom for any fire hazards.

We sorted through hundreds of fire inspection reports andfound multiple instances of fire alarm systems showing trouble and un-servicedfire extinguishers. We also found violations had risen every year since 2010.

There was an average of 6.69 violations every inspectionin 2010, 8.16 violations per inspection in 2011, and 8.25 in 2012, a 23%increase from 2010.

We took this information to the Muscogee County School District.They say they are taking our findings seriously.

“We take safety as a priority, while you may not be able to prevent everything it certainly gives you the tools, skills and knowledge you need to protect yourself, as well as the students and the staff,” says Valerie Fuller, the Communications Director of the Muscogee County School District. 

Columbus Fire Marshal Chief Ricky Shores also emphasizesfire safety in schools. He is constantly training and educating inspectors,teachers and students to make sure they’re doing their part, because he says alarge fire in a school would be catastrophic.

 “There are enoughpeople in the building and the size of the building that would create an eventin the time of the fire that would be overwhelming,” says Shores.

Shores says the schools are built to be fire resistant,but problems arise when items are taken from the home and placed in theclassroom, such as extension cords, microwaves and furniture.

“We’ve seen improvements in a lot of areas, but we’vealso seen some continuing challenges — those items can actually create more ofa fire risk in the classroom environment,” says Shores.

 “It’s a continuous education process. The expectation is that every teacher, every administrator  will follow the guidelines for safety to prevent any violations,” says Fuller.

Inspectors have been trained to look for these kinds offire hazards and they’re known to be very attentive.

“What you’re seeing now is the inspections are a littlemore intense than they have been in the past few years,” says Shores.

Fuller says since learning about the increase she’sworked closely with the plant services department to ensure schools are closelymonitored for fire hazards and violations are corrected.

“There’s a crisis response plan in place for all of the schools and administrative buildings, and it’s always stressed just how important it is to follow the guidelines and procedures especially where safety is considered,” says Fuller.

News 3 also found there were un-reported fire drills inMuscogee County schools. Some schools hadn’t reported a fire drill since 2007.Fuller says all schools are following school evacuation drill procedures, someare just not reporting them properly and they are cracking down on theenforcement of the reporting procedures.

Georgia legislation instructs fire marshals to inspectschools, but there’s no set amount of required inspections. Columbus Fire &EMS say they usually inspect each school twice a year.


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