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PAST NEWS ARTICLES

PROTECT FUEL SUPPLIES (8/26/05)

As prices soar, gasoline, heating and diesel fuels are becoming a frequent target of theft.

The Public School Insurance Funds Risk Control Staff advises each Public School System and Community College to conduct a security review of their fuel supplies and its dispensing practice.

The review should include a look into:

  • Pump Station fence
  • Access limitations
  • Pump metering & Accounting
  • Locks on tank fill pipes
  • Parking practices of Busses, Fuel Delivery Trucks, Service Vehicles and Equipment

In addition, the role of security lighting, surveillance cameras, motion detectors and security services can be scrutinized for effectiveness.

Your examination of these items should raise awareness and lessen exposure to a serious theft exposure. If you find that you have questions, please contact your Fund's Risk Control Specialist.

TOXIC SUBSTANCE RELEASES AT SCHOOLS (10/13/04)

Security Concern - From time to time, the federal government informs DPI of potential security and health risks that could occur on public school campuses. At this time, we have been asked to highlight potential risks of breaches to a school's air-handling system. If a school's air flow system is contaminated by either an exterior or interior event, here are the suggested steps to follow:

In the event that a toxic substance has been released OUTSIDE THE BUILDING, keep individuals inside the building and reduce the indoor/outdoor air exchange to prevent contaminated air from passing through the HVAC system - immediately shut off the air handling system, close all windows and doors and turn off fans and combustion heaters. Once the outdoor hazard has dissipated, open all doors and windows and turn on all fans to ventilate the building.

In the event that a toxic substance has been released INSIDE A BUILDING, immediately evacuate the building in accordance with the building's emergency evacuation plan, being careful NOT to enter or pass through contaminated areas. Evacuation routes may be hazardous in this respect because they may take people through contaminated areas. You may want to revisit your school's evacuation plans to consider primary and secondary emergency exit routes with respect to this issue. Use of a building fire alarm system SHOULD NOT be used for evacuation in this instance for the above mentioned reasons. Intercom announcements advising staff of proper routes in order to avoid contaminated areas would be more appropriate. After evacuation, immediately place the air handling system on "full" (100 percent) outside air.

If advised of an in-building release of hydrogen cyanide gas, chlorine gases, or other toxic industrial chemicals, notification of fire, hazardous materials, ems and law enforcement officials are indicated. These releases require specialized training and equipment to handle. Local school staff and maintenance personnel are generally not equipped or trained to handle these situations. Secure building, deny entry to unauthorized personnel and relocate evacuated occupants up wind of building. In addition notification of the NC School Insurance fund is advised.

CHRISTMAS TREES IN SCHOOLS (12/01/04)

Each year, as the holiday season approaches, we receive numerous inquiries related to the use of Christmas trees in schools. Because of the potential safety hazards to students and staff posed by the use of certain types of decorations, the following information is provided. Reference is made to the North Carolina State Fire Prevention Code, (2002 Edition) excerpted below. Specific inquiries as to the requirements or interpretation of the Code should be directed to the Engineering & Codes Division of the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal at 919.661.5880.

Section 804 Decorative Vegetation

804.1 Natural cut trees. Natural cut trees, where permitted by this section, shall have the trunk bottoms cut off at least 0.5 inch (12.7 mm) above the original cut and shall be placed in a support device complying with Section 804.1.2.

804.1.1 Restricted occupancies. Natural cut trees shall be prohibited in Group A, E (Educational), I-1, I-2, I-3, I-4, M, R-1, R-2 and R-4 occupancies.

Exceptions:

  1. Trees located in areas protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with Section 903.3.1.1 or 903.3.1.2 shall not be prohibited in Groups A, E (Educational), M, R- I and R-2.

804.1.2 Support devices. The support device that holds the tree in an upright position shall be of a type that is stable and that meets all of the following criteria:

  1. The device shall hold the tree securely and be of adequate size to avoid tipping over of the tree.
  2. The device shall be capable of containing a minimum 2-day supply of water.
  3. The water level, when full, shall cover the tree stem at least 2 inches (51 mm). The water level shall be maintained above the fresh cut and checked at least once daily.

804.1.3 Dryness. The tree shall be removed from the building whenever the needles or leaves fall off readily when a tree branch is shaken or if the needles are brittle and break when bent between the thumb and index finger. The tree shall be checked daily for dryness. -

804.2 Obstruction of means of egress. The required width of any portion of a means of egress shall not be obstructed by decorative vegetation.

804.3 Open flame. Candles and open flames shall not be used on or near decorative vegetation. Natural cut trees shall be kept a distance from heat vents and any open flame or heat- producing devices at least equal to the height of the tree.

804.3.1 Electrical fixtures and wiring. The use of unlisted electrical wiring and lighting on decorative vegetation shall be prohibited.

804.4 Artificial vegetation. Artificial decorative vegetation shall be flame resistant or flame retardant. Such flame resistance or flame retardance shall be documented and certified by the manufacturer in an approved manner.

804.4.1 Lights. The use of electrical wiring and lighting on metal artificial trees shall be prohibited.

Living Christmas trees in a balled condition with their roots protected by an earth ball may be permitted (Check with Local Fire Marshal) provided they are maintained in a fresh condition and are not allowed to become dry.

The School Insurance Section of the Division of School Support strongly recommends careful placement of Christmas trees and other similar decorations away from exit traffic patterns, to include corridors and exit doors.

CHANGES TO WEB SITE (8/23/04)

Greetings,

At the time of this writing some new changes to the N.C. Public Schools Insurance Fund Web Site are taking place. More informational questions and answers have been added to the "Frequently Asked Questions" section under "Risk Control". Users should find these questions and answers most helpful in maintaining "Safe Schools" in North Carolina. In addition we have added several new references under our "Links" section. Now you will have access to updated weather from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration / National Weather Service as well as the National hurricane center. In making this change we have deleted "The Weather Channel" as we found it to be more commercial with annoying "pop-up's". Other sites of interest that we have added include links to "N.C. Report Cards", N.C. Science Teachers Assoc." and the "N.C. Assoc. of Educators".

We hope that you enjoy these changes and we look forward to any comments or questions that you may have.

HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS (6/8/2004)

With hurricane season approaching the DPI Public School Insurance Fund asks school systems to consider the following:

Browse the FEMA and FM Global Web Sites for Guidance and Facts Sheets:

Plan with your local Emergency Management Office:

  • Coordinate disaster plans and share resources. Develop a formal loss control policy identifying specific objectives, procedures, responsibilities and accountabilities.

Stock disaster supplies:

  • Portable Phones, Batteries, Radio, Flashlight, First Aid Kit, Essential Medicines, Food, Water, Cash, Camera, Film, Generator, Fuel, Chainsaw, Sand Bags, Tarps

Teach children how and when to call 911 for Police or Fire Department:

  • Which radio station to tune for emergency information.
  • Teach responsible parties how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.

Protect property:

  • Precut and drill plywood for windows
  • Trim dead and weak branches from trees
  • Bring in trash cans, lawn furniture, etc.
  • Clean gutters and drains
  • Check roof flashing to ensure the entire roof perimeter is securely fastened.
  • Review your insurance policy to verify all buildings are listed.

Establish agreements with contractors (outside potential hurricane areas) for supplies and repairs.

Check into flood insurance.

Photograph both building and content damage for insurance claims.

You may contact Joseph Gramer, Claims Manager with the Public School Insurance Fund at 919.807.3532, for more information.

FIRE AND INJURY PREVENTION SCHOOL (5/21/04)

The Department of Public Instruction, division of School Support, School Insurance Fund is pleased to announce and fully supports the following workshop sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Insurance, Office of State Fire Marshal and the N C SAFE KIDS COALITION. This work shop is recommended for all Preschool Teachers & Teacher Assistants. The valuable information received in this workshop will surely be beneficial not only to the attendees but also the school and the community it serves.

PROPOSED POLICY CHANGES (4/26/04)

The Advisory Board of the NC Public Schools Insurance Fund met on Monday April 26th 2004 in room 150 south of the Department of Public Instruction. The purpose of this annual meeting was to review the past years status of the "Fund" along with projections and revisions for the up coming fiscal year. Opening remarks and Welcome were given by Dr. Ben Mathews, Director of school support. The meeting was then presided over by Ms. Eileen B. Townsend, Section Chief of the Insurance Fund. It was reported that the Fund has grown to 134 members with tangible assets of over $20 billion and over 250 million square feet of insured property. This membership includes 92 County School Units, 14 City School Units and 28 Community Colleges.

Items of discussion included changes to the property contract, purchase of additional reinsurance and property rate increases. After presentation of supporting documentation, the advisory board approved the following:

  • Change to Declaration page: Remove old verbiage "Limit of Insurance" Add "Adjusted Total Coverage"
  • Change to Declaration page: Deleted "100% Insurance to Value"
  • Change to Scope of Coverage: B. Limits of Insurance. Add "per defined Building name and number" in first sentence after "applicable limits of insurance".
  • Change page 27: Item "13 Insurance to Value". This section deleted.
  • Change page 27: Item "14 Agreed Amount". Deleted verbiage in first sentence "Property Coverage Declarations or"
  • Change page 27: Item "14 Agreed Amount". Deleted "a." Items "b", "c" & "d" change to "a", "b" & "c".
  • Approved a 10% increase to property rates.
  • Declined proposal to contract an Actuary Study.
  • Declined proposal to purchase additional reinsurance.
  • Declined proposal to increase "wind deductible".

All of the above recommended changes will now be presented to the State Board of Education for final approval during their scheduled May 2004 meeting.

For additional information please contact the Public Schools Insurance Fund.

WORKERS COMPENSATION REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL (2/5/2004)

Eileen Townsend, Section Chief for the Public Schools Insurance Fund is pleased to announce that the "Request for Proposal" for Workers Compensation has been posted on the internet for qualified and interested parties to bid. The address is www.ips.state.nc.us/ips/pubmain.asp and click on "Bids by Department."

For additional information please contact the Public Schools Insurance Fund.

SEASONAL ACT (2/5/2004)

Apparently the Ground Hog has it wrong ...

Normally as weather warms, trees bud, and grass begins to grow; school yard maintenance equipment becomes the target of thieves. It seems spring has arrived early this year as the Insurance Fund has received its first lawn mower theft claim.

We advise school systems to be proactive and increase security measures for protection of mowers, weed trimmers, blowers, edging equipment, and the like. This may involve changing a storage location, locking equipment, fencing, lighting, and alerting your security staff.

For additional comments please contact the Public Schools Insurance Fund.

ADDITIONAL PREMIUM COVERAGE (2/4/2004)

In April of 2003 during a meeting of the School Insurance Advisory Board several items relating to policy coverage were discussed. Of interest were the increased Outdoor Property coverage limit for "Manufactured or Modular Playground Sets" to $50,000, the offering of "Employee Theft" coverage and the "Terrorism Exclusion". To have playground sets added to your property coverage schedule, your system must contact the School Insurance Fund office or their regional Loss Control Specialist. We request you provide the following information: School Site location, Description of the "set" and a dollar value of the "set". Though not required a digital photograph of the "set" would also be desired. The "Employee Theft" coverage is available to cover losses due to "Employee dishonesty" with respect to "money". A deductible of $1,000 and a $10,000 limit of insurance per occurrence apply. The Insurance Fund does offer a "Special Endorsement" to the "Terrorism Exclusion". Please contact the School Insurance Fund for a quote on this coverage.

For additional information on the above services please contact the Public Schools Insurance Fund.

POSSIBLE FIRE HAZARD IN MOBILE CLASSROOMS (2/4/2004)

The Johnston County School system recently experienced two mobile classroom fires. The first one occurred on December 29, 2003 in the early morning hours. Fortunately school was closed for the Christmas holidays. The second occurred on January 21, 2004 around 9:45 am with a class in session. There were no injuries reported with either of these fires. The interesting common factor in both of these fires was that they started in the exterior wall mounted heating units. As a result, the Johnston County Schools Maintenance Department dispatched personnel to all of their schools to physically inspect the heating plants on more than 175 mobile classrooms. At present time it is not known if any hazardous conditions were found or not and no imminent hazard warnings are being issued. The Insurance Fund is however, asking that all users physically check their mobile classroom heating plants for signs of problems.

For additional comments please contact the Public Schools Insurance Fund.