Some North Texas Schools Falling Short On Required Fire Drills

UPDATED | August 23, 2017 1:55 PM

DALLAS (CBS11) – A Consumer Justice Back to School investigation found some school districts in North Texas are not following through on the required amount of fire drills.

Our Cristin Severance and the CBS11 Consumer Justice team requested fire drill reports from more than 1500 schools in 68 school districts.

According to national standards and municipal code, school districts must complete one fire drill a month.

“So, practice, practice, practice is what the NFPA code is looking for,” said Robert Solomon of the National Fire Protection Association.

Deputy Fire Marshal for Tarrant County, Keith Ebel, said the drills are especially important for the elementary schools.

“Well you have to know if the kids are going to be able to get out of the school in a timely fashion,” said Ebel.

Consumer Justice went through thousands of fire drill reports from the 2016-2017 school year and found that more than fifty percent of districts were out of compliance by missing at least one drill.

At the bottom of the list, three school districts did less than half the required amount of drills.

Grandview Independent School District completed just 33 percent of the required drills.

Mother Audra Bird assumed her son Nicholas’ school, Grandview Elementary, did enough fire drills.

“I just took for granted they did them,” said Bird.

Nicholas, 8, told CBS11 he couldn’t remember what to do if the emergency bell rang in school.

“Yeah, if you have a classroom full of kids that don’t know what to do and their panicked, it’s not a good thing,” said another concerned parent named Audra.

Grandview superintendent Joe Perrin agreed to a sit-down interview.

“We were unaware that you need to do a fire drill once a month. We did monthly safety drills, safety is very important to us. We did drills every month you know might’ve been a tornado drill, might’ve been a fire drill, might’ve been a lock down drill. But we didn’t meet the monthly you know nine fire drills for the year,” said Perrin.

Perrin said they didn’t purposely skip the drills.

“I knew that we needed to do them and we have always done fire drills. I just didn’t realize that you needed to do them once a month,” said Perrin.

Perrin said Grandview has already made changes to make sure they’re in compliance this school year.

“We’ve met with the administration yesterday and put some procedures in place, the principles are going to pick the day each month that they’re going to have the fire drills. They’ll have a two day window to make sure that that happens based on weather and insinuated circumstances,” said Perrin.

The Paradise independent school district completed just 36 percent of the required drills. Reports show the intermediate and junior high did just one fire drill each all year.

“That’s not acceptable, by any means,” said Ebel. “I would want answers. Do they not take my child’s safety into consideration or think it’s important.”

Paradise interim superintendent, Robert Criswell, wouldn’t sit down for an interview, telling CBS11 over the phone to “take his word for it” when asked how they plan to be in compliance this school year.

CBS11 caught up with Criswell outside the Paradise Administration Building where he agreed to talk.

Severance: You did 36 percent of the required drills.
Criswell: Terrible… Yes terrible.
Severance: So what plans do you have to make sure you are in compliance.
Criswell: We already have plans submitted to make sure they are done every month. They were aware but they weren’t doing it.

Records for the Godley independent school district show they completete 50 percent of the required drills.

However, Assistant Superintendent Jeanne Cobb said they actually did more.

“Well, we were but we weren’t recording all of them on that form,” said Cobb.

Cobb said they had a real life example proving their students were prepared for a fire.

“Well I felt like we were good that our drills were more than adequate. Because we had a chance when we had a real grass fire behind our elementary school and we evacuated over 600 student in 3 minutes. Not only that, we ran all of our buses and brought them to a different location and they were all relocated in 10 minutes,” said Cobb.

Cobb said her district also made changes to make sure they are doing one drill a month this coming school year.

While fire officials said it’s ultimately up to the districts to make sure they are doing enough drills, Consumer Justice uncovered, in many cases, no agencies are checking to make sure schools are in compliance.

Our Consumer Justice Investigation is prompting action.

Some school districts gave us additional fire drill records since CBS11 first published this database on August 21, 2017. We will continue to update the records as needed. We are unable to update Fort Worth ISD’s records because the district insists on charging for that information.

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