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Guidance to Schools for Unplanned Fire Alarms

Statement from the State Fire Marshal

Freedom to Exit

  • In general, exits and means of egress may not be locked or obstructed in any manner that would deny the public a continuous and unobstructed means of egress.
  • This is to ensure occupants of a structure are provided with a safe and quick means of escape from dangers that may be present in a building.

Options In the Event of an Unplanned Fire Alarm Activation

  • However, due to the potential of fire alarms being used to lure occupants into hallways in order to inflict greater harm, schools may barricade or block a door for up to 3 minutes in the event of an unplanned fire alarm activation.
  • Following this 3 minute period, the school must evacuate, unless an active shooter has been verified to be on the school’s property.
  • Please keep in mind, there is no requirement to delay evacuation. This process and the implementation of any policy should be addressed by appropriate school officials.

Other Methods to Eliminate Dangers Associated with Threat of Active Shooters

  • Removal of publicly accessible fire alarm pull stations in accordance with applicable building and fire safety codes.
  • Monitoring fire alarm pull stations
  • Installation of a fire alarm panel that allows for “Positive Fire Alarm Sequence.”  By utilizing this method, when a fire alarm is pulled, the alarm delays activation for 3 minutes to allow school officials to investigate the cause of the alarm. However, the use of this method does not permit the barricading or blocking of doors to occur for an additional 3 minutes following this delay.
  • Installation of an automatic fire sprinkler system, which may eliminate the requirement of fire rated doors, which would permit the use of magnetic strips or other devices that affect a doors latching or closing operations.
  • Installation of code compliant doors that lock people out of a room—but not inside the room.

What is Not Allowed

  • Anything that restricts exiting or egress from the building.
  • Magnetic strips or hold open devices, if used on a fire rated door.