Proper Utilization and Organization of Storage Areas
by Katie Pfeifer, The Sandner Group
Accumulation of unused material, obsolete or non-functioning equipment, waste paper products, and other debris is a common problem for many school districts. Removing unused material and taking adequate measures to keep clutter out of school buildings is important, but proper storage of items kept in school inventory is equally important. Basic and routine housekeeping will help keep your district relatively free of excess material, help prevent property losses, and help keep students and staff safe.
Excessive clutter in any building is a serious fire hazard. A building used to store large amounts of combustible material will burn much quicker than a building that does not contain combustible material. The building itself may not be a total loss, but it is unlikely anything inside the affected area will be salvageable. It is costly and time consuming to rebuild what has been lost.
There are safety measures that can be taken to ensure district buildings are maintained without excessive amounts of material causing safety hazards. Remove all obsolete equipment or unnecessary supplies from the district. If possible, designate specific areas for storage and control access to these areas to assure that only authorized staff members have access. Keep storage areas clean and store items in a neat and orderly fashion. Do not pack an excessive amount of material into any storage space. Consider what is being stored and how essential it is to keep it. When, if ever, will those old props from the school play or forgotten holiday decorations be used again?
District administrators and Principals should monitor outside items brought into classrooms. Our loss control professionals frequently report finding classrooms with large quantities of non-essential material brought in by staff members. While it may be well intentioned, unchecked accumulation of outside property in classrooms can lead to accidents and increased fire hazards. Personal appliances such as toaster ovens, mini-refrigerators, coffee makers, space heaters, and fans not only increase electrical costs but also represent additional fire hazards.
Implementing an annual or semi-annual clean out program will help ensure that all school buildings are organized, clean, and free of unnecessary items. Part of the annual clean out program should consist of a checklist of safety precautions to consider for buildings or areas used for storage. Our loss control manual, which is provided to all OSRMT member districts at no cost, contains safety checklists for 21 different areas.
Use buildings for their intended purpose. The short term solution of storing materials in any area with free space does not outweigh the possible long term consequences. Maintaining a clean facility free of accident and fire hazards associated with disorganized clutter is possible.