Cedar Rapids schools adjust safety protocols, after several fail fire drills

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Cedar Rapids School District is adjusting communication patterns to make sure schools complete all required fire drills. Last month, a KCRG-TV9 i9 investigation revealed some schools broke state law by not completing the drills.

Arthur Elementary School in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette/KCRG-TV9)

Each school in Iowa is required to pass two fire drills a semester, or four a year. Last school year, 19 of 31 buildings in Cedar Rapids did not complete those drills.

The school district now set up communication reminders to principals to ensure that all the drills are done. So far, it's working. The first deadline of this school year happened on December 31st and documents show all schools passed the fire drills.

District officials said they reviewed their fire drill policy following the investigation.

Principals now receive monthly emails to serve as a reminder to schedule fire drills. A district official said some administrators are new to the state, so they were not familiar with Iowa Code.

The law states each school needs to pass four fire drills and tornado drills each year. The district is confident this new policy will ensure 100 percent completion.

“It's really a matter of sending the monthly reminders and even some phone calls here and there if we see we're getting near the end and we haven't gotten our schools yet to achieve compliance,” Communications Director Akwi Nji said.

The district is also working with the Cedar Rapids Fire Department and Linn County Emergency Management to review the current fire drill routes and procedures.

Firefighters will sometimes be present during drills to take notes for things to improve.

Documents showed code violations in a few school buildings.

Arthur Elementary School, for example, didn't have easily accessible fire alarms. And many schools had repeat violations, like too many appliances plugged into outlets and a lack of emergency lighting.