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CFO and State Fire Marshal Patronis Issues Directive Facilitating School Fire Drills in COVID Era

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Late Tuesday evening, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis signed CFO Directive 2020-13, which provides Florida’s K-12 schools with flexibility to conduct required fire safety drills while implementing social-distancing procedures. Specifically, the Directive permits schools to conduct fire drills in phases and assemble students in alternate mustering areas, as necessary to promote social distancing. The additional flexibility provided by this Directive will help students and educators practice fire safety protocols while minimizing infection risks associated with large gatherings.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “As State Fire Marshal, I am committed to ensuring Florida’s students learn in a safe environment. By signing this directive, schools will be able to conduct fire drills in a manner that maintains the kind of social distancing protocols we expect districts to put into place. We’re living in challenging times and it’s important we don’t ignore the threat that fire presents to our children, our teachers and our facilities. It’s important we empower our local fire officials to work with school leaders to ensure our students practice fire drills, so they come home safe-and-sound. Thank you to our fire chiefs for their hard work and dedication while working with Superintendents to ensure Florida’s students remain safe while they are at school.” 

WHEREAS, on March 1, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order 20-51 directing the Florida Department of Health to issue a Public Health Emergency; and

WHEREAS, on March 1, 2020, the State Surgeon General and State Health Officer declared a Public Health Emergency exists in the State of Florida as a result of COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, on March 9, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order 20-52 declaring a state of emergency for the entire State of Florida as a result of COVID-19, and granting each state agency the power to suspend provisions of regulatory statues and rules if strict compliance with such statute or rule would in any way prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency; and

WHEREAS, On July 7th, 2020, the Governor extended and reaffirmed Executive Order 20-52; and

WHEREAS, positive cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Florida and COVID-19 continues to pose a risk to the entire state of Florida; and

WHEREAS, Section 633.202, F.S. mandates that the State Fire Marshal shall adopt the Florida Fire Prevention Code (FFPC), which shall consist of the current edition of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 1 and 101, with Florida specific amendments; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to NFPA 101: and, the FFPC requires educational occupancies to conduct emergency egress drills; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to NFPA 101:4.7.1, the FFPC does not require all buildings on an educational occupancy campus be evacuated at one time during an emergency egress drill; and

WHEREAS, the term “Area of Refuge” is defined in NFPA 101:3.3.22 as an “area that is either (1) a story in a building where the building is protected throughout by an approved, supervised, automatic sprinkler system and has not less than two accessible rooms or spaces separated from each other by smoke-resisting partitions or (2) a space located in a path of travel leading to a public way that is protected from the effects of fire, either by means of separation from other spaces in the same building or by virtue of location, thereby permitting a delay in egress travel from any level”; and 

WHEREAS, The FFPC permits emergency egress drills to be conducted within a single building, enabling the ability to achieve the social distancing necessary during the Public Health Emergency and is in the best interests of the students of the State.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JIMMY PATRONIS, as Chief Financial Officer of Florida, by virtue of the authorities delegated to me by the Governor pursuant to his powers under Chapter 252, Florida Statutes, promulgate the following Directive to take immediate effect:

Section 1.  During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and to maintain proper social distancing, educational occupancies are permitted to conduct evacuation drills with zoned or phased evacuation plans that do not require the evacuation of an entire building or of the entire student body at the same time.

Section 2. During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and to maintain proper social distancing, educational occupancies may direct students participating in drills to utilize an alternative area of refuge during the drill, provided all participants are educated on the gathering area to be used in the event of an actual emergency, if different.

Section 3. Pursuant to NFPA 101:,, and of the FFPC, educational occupancies shall conduct at least four drills, with one occurring in the first 30 days, before replacing drills with fire safety education. Every student in an educational occupancy must have completed the required number of egress drills before they can be replaced with fire safety education. It is recommended that you coordinate with your local fire department to provide assistance regarding education that can be conducted while maintain proper social distancing.

Section 4. Nothing in this Directive should be interpreted as requiring educational occupancies to deviate from standard procedures with respect to the timing and order of evacuations, or any other provisions of the FFPC.

Section 5.   This Directive shall expire upon the expiration of Executive Order 20-52, including any extensions, thereof.

A copy of Chief Financial Officer Directive 2020-13 can be found here.
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