Pennsylvania to Require Smoke Alarm, Fire Extinguisher Checks During Child Care Center Inspections
Pennsylvania's Office of Child Development and Early Learning will require fire safety checks during child care center inspections starting Monday.
The announcement made Thursday afternoon at Erie's Central Fire Station comes one month after an Aug. 11 fire at an Erie day care claimed the lives of five children.
Licensing staff will perform fire safety checks during every initial, renewal, unannounced and complaint inspections.
The person in charge of each child care facility will be required to demonstrate an operable fire detection and prevention system, which includes the presence of operable smoke detectors on each floor and fire extinguishers in the kitchen or other cooking areas at minimum.
Only one fire detector was found in the attic of Harris Family Daycare where the fatal fire happened. The fire originated by a couch in a first-floor living room and appears to be accidental due to an overloaded electrical cord, according to Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone.
“This tragedy made clear that DHS, as the department primarily responsible for the regulation of child care facilities, should also be evaluating facilities for the presence of operable smoke detectors and fire extinguishers as well,” said Secretary Miller.
A complaint will be filed with the Department of Labor & Industry or local officials for any facility that does not meet the new requirements, so action can be taken.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) will also recommend the licensed child care facilities work with their local fire safety officials to meet compliance with fire safety codes. DHS will also cite the provider for a health and safety violation. The changes will be codified in DHS’ child care regulations.
DHS is also running a fire safety initiative call campaign this month to collect information from family child care providers and alert them to the department’s fire prevention efforts. It involves surveying family child care providers about their fire prevention systems and emergency plans, including evacuation plans for children in overnight care. The information gathered will support ongoing efforts to improve fire safety at child care facilities within the state.
The City of Erie said it still plans to move forward with its own ordinance, which was also prompted by the day care fire, to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Under the ordinance, fire inspectors would check each place annually to ensure that they have the proper amount of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
You can view the inspection history for licensed child care providers here.