Records show some NC schools skip mandated fire drills

RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – A CBS North Carolina Investigation uncovered dozens of Triangle schools skipping fire drills despite the exercise being mandated by North Carolina law.

Each school principal is required to conduct a fire drill during the first week of classes after the opening of school and at least once a month after that.

Mike Webb, Durham County assistant fire marshal, said it is imperative schools do conduct the drills.

“The more you do it, the more repetition you can get, the quicker you can get out,” Webb said.

School principals are required to fill out a form detailing any problems and recording evacuation times for their monthly fire drills. That report is then sent to the district superintendent’s office where it’s to be kept on file.

CBS North Carolina Investigates asked for every fire drill report for the 2015-16 school year.

In Durham Public Schools, the following number of schools were missing at least one month, if not more:

  • 17 elementary schools
  • 5 middle schools
  • 9 high schools

In some cases, principals noted making up a missed fire drill the following month, but according to Webb, that doesn’t count.

“Fire drills have to be done. Once you miss it, you can’t make it up,” Webb said.

CBS North Carolina Investigates took the issue to the head of Risk Management for Durham Public Schools.

“This does concern us and we’re glad this is getting some attention because we need to do a better job to ensure all the schools are doing it. We’re glad to say 94-95 percent but in safety, you got to be close to 100 percent. It’s state statute,” said Hugh Osteen, deputy superintendent of Operational Services.

Parents outside of Fayetteville Street Elementary echo that statement.

“I don’t feel that’s something that should be neglected. Because that’s safety. Every parent wants to be able to go to work and know they child safe if they in school,” a parent said.

CBS North Carolina Investigates could not obtain two months worth of fire drill reporting for Fayetteville Street Elementary.

Webb said ultimately these drills are the responsibility of the schools principal.

“It is so important to make sure this paperwork is filled out properly. We look at it as a legal document. If something were to happen in the school, they’re going to pull that paperwork first,” he said.

After CBS North Carolina’s investigation, Osteen said they will be speaking to school principals to make sure they are doing these fire drills.

Wake County Public Schools said every school was doing their drills every month.

But the documented proof showed similar numbers when it came schools missing least one monthly fire drill:

  • 23 elementary schools
  • 9 middle schools
  • 12 high schools

Robert Pace, the Risk Management Safety administrator for Wake County Schools, said the district is doing its best.

“With the safety of 160,000 students, we take that very seriously. We’re going to try and do the best we can so parents can be confident we’re looking after their children,” Pace said.

Again, CBS North Carolina Investigates found some schools like Apex and Bugg Elementary that missed a month and then held two fire drills later in an attempt to make up for it. Other schools didn’t have any documentation at all.

To see how your child’s school performed for Wake County Schools, click here.

Durham Public Schools, click here.