Examining fire safety on campus

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Starting in the beginning of August, wildfires were rampant and caused a thick layer of smoky air to become trapped in the Treasure Valley. Most notable was the Cinder Butte fire, located in Eastern Oregon. Furthermore, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, from 2000 until 2015, there were 85 nationwide fatal fires that occurred in dorms, fraternities and off-campus housing. These fires resulted in a total of 118 fatalities, an average of approximately seven per year.

While wildfires are still an ongoing concern, this data suggests it may be a pertinent moment to take a closer look at the fire safety procedures that occur on university campuses such as Boise State.

In 2008, the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act, an amendment to the Higher Education Opportunity Act, was signed into law by President George Bush. This amendment is intended to increase awareness for fire safety and required universities to keep records as well as publicly post the safety procedures.

Housing and Residence Life keeps the records of Boise State’s fire log. According to the updates on the log, there has not been any fires on campus in the past 60 days.

Randy Bunnis, safety and loss control specialist within the Office of Environmental Health, Safety and Sustainability, emphasized the importance of fire safety with students living off-campus.

“Almost 80 percent of fire-related fatalities related to campus housing occur off-campus. Make sure smoke detectors are installed and working in each sleeping area,” Bunnis said.

According to Bunnis, all major facilities on campus have a fire protection system. Each system is different depending on when it was built or remodeled.

“The older buildings will have heat and smoke detectors and possibly fire alarm pull stations, while the newer buildings will have a full sprinkler system. All buildings also have fire extinguishers, emergency illumination and exit signage throughout and many have fire or smoke doors,” Bunnis said.

Bunnis explained that if students were to detect a fire, then the first thing they should do is pull the fire alarm and proceed to call 911. If they feel confident, use a fire extinguisher, but never put themselves or others in danger. Most importantly, evacuate the building.

“If the building has a sprinkler system and it activates, they are generally 98% effective in controlling a fire; activation of the sprinkler system will cause the audio and visual devices to sounds and flash,” Bunnis said.

Dean Kennedy, director of Housing and Residence Life, stated that all Residence Life student staff go through extensive training involving emergency procedures including building emergencies, evacuations and fire prevention.

“I feel we are all responsible for ensuring the safety of every member of our community,” Kennedy said. “This means being observant of our surroundings, reporting suspicious or dangerous behavior immediately, evacuating buildings when alarms go off and making sure peers are leaving those buildings too and being proactive-stopping potentially dangerous behavior by our friends. Together, we have the power to keep our community safe.”

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