Friday, August 18, 2000

At alarm, get out - now

Miami U. exercise drills home vital massage

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — It lacked some elements of a real fire scene, but Miami University's fire-safety exercises this week drilled home a powerful message:

[photo] Residence-hall personnel make their way through “smoke-filled” Morris Hall, a freshman residence at Miami University.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        When an alarm goes off in a residence hall, get out. Now.

        University safety personnel have developed an evacuation drill that requires young people to find exits in their dorms through a thick barrier of fake smoke. On Wednesday, dozens of residence-hall personnel were trained for “The Great Escape on Campus,” crawling down a smoke-filled corridor in Morris Hall, a freshman residence. The source of the smoke was a machine also used by theater companies to create fog and smoke effects.

        “They experience tremendous disorientation in the smoke,” said Richard Dusha, Miami University's fire marshal. “You add to that the heat and burning eyes you experience in a real fire, and the message we want to give them is: Don't wait around.”

  Miami's fire-safety drills are prompted, in part, by a recent rash of fires on campuses nationwide. At Miami, a small fire destroyed one student room in Bishop Hall Jan. 22, just three days after a disastrous blaze killed three students and injured many more at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
  According to Miami's fire/safety specialist Randall Hormann, there were 27 fires on U.S. campuses between mid-January and mid-May.

        The session, participants said, will help them prepare incoming first-year students for mandatory drills in the next several weeks.

        The subject is part of new student orientation on other area campuses as well.

        “We do fire-alarm drills in each of our residence halls to make sure our (resident assistants) are familiar with the alarms,” said Michael Couch, chief of campus police at Xavier University. “As freshmen are assigned to residence halls, we go over emergency preparedness at floor meetings,” said Lewis Watkins, fire-safety supervisor for the University of Cincinnati. UC also holds monthly fire drills and conducts quarterly inspections in residence halls.

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