Family daycares now required to have fire safety tools

Gov. Tom Wolf last week signed into law legislation that requires family child-care homes to have fire safety equipment present to protect individuals in care.

Senate Bill 563 amends the Fire and Panic Act, further providing for standards for family child-care homes. It requires family child-care homes to have a smoke alarm on each floor, a portable fire extinguisher for class B fires in cooking areas, and a means of egress that complies with R-3 occupancy and licensure requirements under the Department of Human Services’ regulations.

The smoke alarms are required to be interconnected via hardwire, Bluetooth connectivity or any other means that allows for communication between the other smoke alarms in the family child-care home. Further, at the time of installation, each smoke alarm is required to be approved by an approved testing laboratory.

The seed for this bill took place nearly three years ago when a fire swept through an Erie family child care home during the overnight hours and killed five children – all under the age of 9. The fire chief at the time said he believed all five could have survived the blaze if the home had more than one smoke detector.

The memory of that Aug. 11, 2019, fire still haunts residents of Erie, including their state Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie County, who is determined to beef up fire safety requirements in child care facilities to try to prevent future tragedies like the one in his hometown.

Last Tuesday, Laughlin’s House-amended bill addressing this issue passed the Senate on a 49-0 vote and was sent to Wolf for enactment.

“This bill is long overdue,” Laughlin said last week. “This bill will not restore the lives that were tragically lost, nor will it ease the pain those grieving families endured. However, it is government’s responsibility to learn from these tragic cases and to act to prevent them from ever occurring again in the future.”

Since that fire, the City of Erie approved an ordinance requiring child care facilities be inspected annually for many safety items, including working smoke detectors on every floor and one in every bedroom. The smoke detectors must be interconnected.

The fatal fire also led the Department of Human Services to require its inspectors to ask child care operators to demonstrate that their facility’s smoke detectors are working. Previously, those inspections did not include checking to see if the devices were operable.

Laughlin also succeeded in getting a law to require child care facilities to test their interconnected fire detection device or system monthly. If that isn’t possible, a fire safety professional must confirm it is operational every year.

It also required facilities to maintain a written log to document tests were performed and for inspectors to visually inspect smoke detectors.

From PennLive