Fire safety: Residence life incites preparedness

Jared Crain, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

Though uncommon, the occasional fires that have occurred in residence halls in years past encourage residence life at Berry to continuously improve fire safety measures year after year.

Lindsay Norman, assistant dean of students and director of residence life, explained that the goals of regularly maintaining fire safety and order in the residence halls take two forms: prevention and education. 

In terms of prevention, the basic residence policies outlined for all students anticipate potential fire hazards. For instance, candles and oven elements and appliances are prohibited, stairwells must be kept clear at all times, bikes must be stored away from entrances and exits and fire doors used to prevent spreading in the event of a fire must be kept closed in all circumstances.

“There are a lot of little things that residents don’t necessarily always see that we are prohibiting, like propping fire doors,” Norman said. “Students don’t always know what goes into that preventative side, but that’s who we are is the people who see the potential and address it.”

Norman explained that education plays a role through teaching resident assistants about fire safety and precautionary action. Residence life trains RAs on the differences between electrical, grease and ordinary fires, how to operate fire extinguishers and how to be role models in the evacuation of students from buildings

“We do two trainings a year, one in the fall and one in January,” Norman said. “We bring in campus safety, who teaches those to our staff.”

Dana resident assistant Quinn Schurig explained that the weeklong RA training that occurs several days before classes begin each year serves in large part to emphasize the importance of fire education among all students. Once training ends, the RAs are then expected to assume the duty as educators of fire safety to residents of their halls, making sure that students are prepared to carry out sufficient protocol.

“The local fire chiefs come and give this whole presentation on how dangerous fires can be and how seriously we should take them,” Schurig said. “We are prepared to know when the fire alarm goes off that we have to get everyone out as fast as possible and then we have to be as far back from the building as we can.”

Sophomore Evan Cole, a resident of Pilgrim Hall, said he feels well educated with regard to evacuation methods in the event of a fire alarm, primarily due to the instruction of his RAs. He explained that he knows to get out and away from the residence hall as quickly as possible and wait for the Berry PD and Fire Department to arrive and give the clear to return to the building. 

Nonetheless, while he feels educated about fire safety, Cole also explained some issues with his hall’s alarm system. 

“Honestly, the fire alarms on our floor, you couldn’t really hear them, and so our RAs came and got us out,” Cole said. “We talked to our head resident and I think they’re addressing that issue.”

On the other hand, in other residence halls, like Dana Hall, many students complain about the fire alarm being too loud and frequent. Cole explained that he only recalled the fire alarm going off in Pilgrim one time, whereas it is not unlikely for the fire alarm in Dana to blare at least once every week or two. 

In order to address and correct the issues of inconsistent frequencies and volumes of the fire alarms among residence halls across campus, Norman explained that spontaneous fire drills are planned for all residence halls on campus in coordination with campus police.

“We usually do them in the afternoons, we don’t tell residents they are happening, and we don’t even tell the RAs that it’s happening,” Norman said. “Area coordinators and the campus police will go to the buildings and pull the fire alarms, and if the observations aren’t satisfactory they can address the things they see in that moment.” 

Norman further explained that if a fire alarm goes off for whatever reason any time shortly before a planned drill, whether due to malfunction or student interference, then that alarm will serve to take the place of the planned drill. 

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