College addresses students’ fire safety concerns

In recent weeks, The Signal received letters from students concerned by what they feel are dangerous or ineffective fire safety policies and procedures at the College.

According to a letter that Michael Millspaugh, senior interactive multimedia major, wrote for the Jan. 25 issue, fire alarms did not go off in the Travers/Wolfe Dining Hall during a fire drill.

In addition, students eating in the dining hall were not notified that they had to leave the building until about 15 minutes after the drill had already begun. He wrote that they found the closest exit, located downstairs in Wolfe Hall, was broken, and had to leave the building through the main exit on the first floor.

In the letter, Millspaugh asked, “Isn’t there something very wrong with a system that trains students not to use the fire exits provided?”

The source of the problems listed in Millspaugh’s letter stemmed from a tripped fuse, according to Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations.

Golden also explained that the sliding doors in Wolfe Hall were under repair on the day of the fire drill. “A sign had been posted on that door requesting that people use an adjacent door,” Golden said, “but the door in question actually could have been used.”

In addition to the Travers/Wolfe Dining Hall, the fire alarms on floors six through 10 did not go off during the scheduled fire drill, which took place at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19.

Campus Police notified the electrical foreman when the alarms failed. The foreman then contacted Simplex, the contractor for fire alarm maintenance.

Michael Robbins, acting assistant director of Residential and Community Development, said that the alarms were fixed by approximately 1 a.m. on Jan. 20.

Between the time when the alarms failed and when they were fixed, community advisors (CAs) patrolled the floors without working fire alarms until they were fixed, acting, as Robbins said, like “human fire alarms.”

Another complaint letter about fire safety was published on Feb. 1. In it, Michael Wargo, sophomore communication studies major, claimed that chairs were stacked in front of a fire exit in Eickhoff Dining Hall.

Steve Hugg, director of Marketing and Business Development for Dining Services at the College, did not know about the blocked fire exit in Eickhoff Dining Hall prior to reading about it in Wargo’s letter.

“(Dining Services) will review this with our staff to ensure that no fire exit doors are blocked,” Hugg wrote in an e-mail. “Dining Services takes the safety of our customers and employees very seriously and works with the College to make sure our locations are safe.”

Despite these assurances, Millspaugh believes that changes need to be made. “(Students) should be taught how to react to a fire in the safest way,” he said.

Regardless of these incidents, most students say that they feel safe at the College.

“I can rely on my own ability to escape,” Joe Cerminaro, freshman nursing major, said. “But I’d be concerned for someone with a disability.”

Many students agree that fire drills are not taken seriously at the College.

“Nobody expects a fire to happen,” Valerie Perez, sophomore accounting major, said.

Perez said that many people don’t even bother to leave the building during a fire drill. She believes that students need more motivation to leave during the drills.

Kelly Dougherty, freshman criminology and justice studies major, agreed, saying, “There are so many (fire drills). I don’t take them seriously anymore.”