Keeping every student safe and happy is one of Plattsburgh State’s main goals on campus. Because September was Campus Fire Safety and Preparedness Month, the IFC/ISA Service Committee and the Campus Emergency Preparedness Day Planning Committee sponsored a series of events and demonstrations on just that on Sept. 27.
According to a campus-wide email sent by Michael Caraballo, activities were displayed on campus from 1 to 4 p.m. that day. Many organizations of emergency first responders, such as the New York State Police, University Police and Clinton County Search and Rescue, were there to answer questions for any curious students in the Amity Plaza and Angell College Center. There were also real-life demonstrations of an aerial rescue and mock dorm room burn in front of Whiteface Hall that many students witnessed firsthand.
However, the average student might not realize or remember the possibility that events like these were put in place because of one past accident.
In September of 2013, Alexa Limato, a senior PSUC psychology major at the time, was the survivor of an electrical house fire off campus on Couch Street, resulting in major injuries and extensive care. Thousands of people reached out to “Help Alexa Heal” through local and online donations that produced a grand total of over $13,000 toward Limato and her family. Since her recovery, Limato has moved on from PSUC.
Graduating this past May from Adelphi University, Limato received her MSW, and is currently working for Rehabilitation Support Services in Goshen, New York, helping children connect to resources in the community in order to foster mental and emotional support. Every emergency situation is different, especially when it comes to house fires, so sometimes the cause is unavoidable.
“Thinking back to the fire, I know that I did everything right,” Limato said. “I was very aware of fire safety. You could do everything right and still have what happened to me happen.”
Despite the inevitability, Limato is glad that there is fire safety awareness on campus than there used to be four years ago. “I don’t remember [fire safety] seeming like a big deal,” she said. However, the overall effect of the accident has impacted Limato positively, as she said that safety planning plays a big role in her social work career.
In the event of a serious fire or emergency, Limato advised other students to pay attention and be aware of their surroundings. Because the fire was electrical, no one person was at fault for what happened, so students should be careful when considering where to live off campus especially paying attention to the housing regulations. “No matter how much fire safety preparedness information you get, it’s still a whole other thing when it’s actually happening,” she said. “There are other aspects that you don’t fully understand until you’re faced with it.”
Limato hopes her story is inspiring, as being a survivor allows her to not only move forward, but also to further help others who are also struggling.
“Going into social work was always my goal, but I feel like [the accident] further defined my purpose,” she said. “Any way I can help others using my story, I’m glad to do so.”
For more information on emergency preparedness, visit the PSUC Office of Emergency Management, or go online at www.plattsburgh.edu/emergency/. With survivors like Alexa to tell their story, and an increased awareness of fire safety and preparedness on campus, we can further prevent hazards from harming any student, on or off campus.
Email Emma Vallelunga at firstname.lastname@example.org