Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.5 Fire Warning Systems Smoke Detection Systems and Smoke Alarms

In centers with new installations, a smoke detection system (such as hard-wired system detectors with battery back-up system and control panel) or monitored wireless battery operated detectors that automatically signal an alarm through a central control panel when the battery is low or when the detector is triggered by a hazardous condition should be installed with placement of the smoke detectors in the following areas:

  1. Each story in front of doors to the stairway;
  2. Corridors of all floors;
  3. Lounges and recreation areas;
  4. Sleeping rooms.

In large and small family child care homes, smoke alarms that receive their operating power from the building electrical system or are of the wireless signal-monitored-alarm system type should be installed. Battery-operated smoke alarms should be permitted provided that the facility demonstrates to the fire inspector that testing, maintenance, and battery replacement programs ensure reliability of power to the smoke alarms and signaling of a monitored alarm when the battery is low and that retrofitting the facility to connect the smoke alarms to the electrical system would be costly and difficult to achieve.

Facilities with smoke alarms that operate using power from the building electrical system should keep a supply of batteries and battery-operated detectors for use during power outages.

Because of the large number of children at risk in a center, up-to-date smoke detection system technology is needed. Wireless smoke alarm systems that signal and set off a monitored alarm are acceptable. In large and small family child care homes, single-station smoke alarms are acceptable. However, for all new building installations where access to enable necessary wiring is available, smoke alarms should be used that receive their power from the building’s electrical system. These hard-wired detecting systems typically have a battery operated back-up system for times of power outage. The hard-wired and wireless smoke detectors should be interconnected so that occupants receive instantaneous alarms throughout the facility, not just in the room of origin. Single-station batteries are not reliable enough; single-station battery-operated smoke alarms should be accepted only where connecting smoke detectors to existing wiring would be too difficult and expensive as a retrofitted arrangement.
Some state and local building codes specify the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors and fire alarm systems. For specific information, see the NFPA 101: Life Safety Code (1) and the NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code from the National Fire Protection Association.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an online coloring book that can be printed and used to teach children about fire safety at

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Compliance with Fire Prevention Code
  1. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). 2009. NFPA 101: Life Safety Code. 2009 ed. Quincy, MA: NFPA. Portable Fire Extinguishers

Content in the STANDARD was modified 01/23/2020.

Fire extinguishers should be installed along normal paths of travel, in locations that are visible, and where readily accessible in the event of a fire. If visual obstruction cannot be avoided, signs or other means should be provided to identify location of a fire extinguisher.1 Caregivers/teachers should have access to a fire extinguisher manual or National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 10 for instructions and cautions necessary to the installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of fire extinguishers.1


The fire extinguisher should be of the ABC type (see Rationale for an explanation of each class type). Size/number of fire extinguishers should be determined after a survey by the fire marshal or by an insurance company fire loss prevention representative.


Fire extinguishers should not be accessible to children.


Persons inspecting, maintaining, and recharging extinguishers should be certified. Inspections and maintenance should be completed annually and all records kept on file.

Each fire extinguisher should have a label or tag securely attached that identifies the following:

  • Month and year of completion
  • Person performing work
  • Name of agency performing work


Additional information on fire safety and extinguishers, such as maintenance intervals, can be found in NFPA Code 10. Refer to Standard Use of Fire Extinguishers for information on fire emergency action plans, evacuating children, and staff training requirements.
All fire extinguishers are labeled, using standard symbols, for the classes of fires on which they can be used. A red slash through any of the symbols tells you the extinguisher cannot be used on that class of fire. Class A designates ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth, and paper. Class B designates flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, and oil-based paint. Class C designates energized electrical equipment, including wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery, and appliances. Refer to NFPA Code 10 for additional information.
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Use of Fire Extinguishers Compliance with Fire Prevention Code Smoke Detection Systems and Smoke Alarms Availability of Reports on Inspections of Fire Protection Devices
  1. National Fire Protection Association. NFPA 10: Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers. Updated 2018. Accessed August 21, 2019


Content in the STANDARD was modified 01/23/2020.