Daycare size tied to use of monitoring

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Sunday, August 1, 2004

GILBERT, Ariz. - As a result of a new ordinance that takes effect this month, in-home daycare facilities in this Phoenix suburb can increase the amount of children they care for, to 10 from five, provided they enlist the services of a UL-approved fire monitoring firm.

The ordinance supersedes an earlier proposal to require fire sprinklers for those who want to expand the number of children cared for. In-home daycare providers that choose not to expand beyond five children are not required to comply with the new rules.

“It all started when they wanted to increase the occupancy in in-home daycares,” according to Tim Simanton, senior plans examiner, fire, within the town’s building and safety division, in reference to the third party monitoring provision of the new ordinance.

Discussion about increasing the allowed amount of children began three months ago, according to Simanton. An initial proposal required fire sprinklers, not third-party monitoring. However, the cost of installing sprinklers was determined to be cost prohibitive.

“I think anytime a local municipality recognizes the value in a professionally installed monitoring system, it benefits our industry,” said Don Maden, vice president at C.O.P.S. Monitoring, which just expanded into the Arizona market. “It’s great for the industry.”

The Gilbert Town Council, which serves a population of about 150,000, favored the increase for the town daycare providers. But the town’s fire division saw a need to implement some cost-saving measures.

“When they did that, we decided it was an increased hazard,” said Simanton. “At that point, it was determined that something else had to be added to help protect those children.”

In-home daycare facilities caring for five and fewer children are still required to pay $25 for an annual fire inspection. The inspection confirms individual daycare centers are located on grade level, possess operational smoke detectors, have secured any medicines, covered all electrical outlets and addressed other potential hazards.

Daycare providers that serve six to 10 children must meet the above requirements plus install a swinging door for the main point of access to the building, in addition to attaining a monitored third- party smoke detection system.