This September, annual Fire Safety Month is kicking off with fire drills in SUNY Plattsburgh’s residence halls, and has began to become a concern to multiple departments involved.
“False alarms are never an issue,” Fire Department Captain James St. Dennis* said. “But the more fire alarms that go off, people begin to not take them as seriously as they should.”
Fire alarms in recent semesters have tended to alert residents in the middle of the night due to hairspray, straightener and curling iron use in the dorm rooms, as well as burning food in the residential kitchens according to James Sherman, Assistant Director of Community Living. Community advocates tell residents to use hair products in the bathroom, because the sensitivity in those fire alarms differ from the dorm rooms.
“Many students are away from home for the first time,” Dennis said. “They still need to take their own actions into account.”
New York State Law requires all occupants to evacuate buildings when a fire alarm is activated, whether it is a drill or not. Dennis said, “students shouldn’t hesitate to leave in the case of an emergency or a false alarm”.
Survivors of the Seton Hall University dormitory fire Alvaro Llanos and Shawn Simons, will hold a forum at 7 p.m. in the Cardinal Lounge of the Angell College Center Sept. 25, about their experience and prevention. These students hesitated during what they thought was a false alarm and got severely burned.
“As they took their time getting dressed, they had no idea what was simmering down the hall from their room 3028 in the third-floor lounge. An inferno was brewing at temperatures near 1600 degrees and burning down anything in its path,” the Llanos and Simons official website states.
It’s important to know exits during an alarm, proper procedure and behaviors that lead to an emergency, Dennis said.
“We aren’t trying to make [students] miserable, we are trying to protect [them],” Sherman said. Banned flammables in the dorm rooms include: candles, salt lamps, cigarettes, e-vapes, portable heaters, alcohol, hover-boards, tapestries and more. If a rule or policy is violated, a student generally will be referred to the Student Conduct Office, according to the SUNY Plattsburgh website.
“Four years ago, a Juul caught fire in Hood Hall,” Sherman said.”It had a short in it, it didn’t damage much, fire detectors caught it before any real damage occurred.”
In prevention of a fire, Resident Life advise students not to bring these banned items and to watch their food while cooking. Sherman also discussed a recent false alarm, when a student forgot to put water in the pot before cooking macaroni; and there have been multiple of these incidents.
The goal of fire safety month lies within preparation in the event of an actual fire. Emergency Preparedness Day, an event held in the Angell College Center on Sept. 27 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. includes activities such as student fire extinguisher training, a room filled with smoke to simulate a real fire, and an outdoor dorm room fire simulation. The Plattsburgh Police Department will also have a drunken driving simulation.
Off-campus safety on the roads and in student rooms is equally as important as on- campus residents.
“Off-campus students should know exits, update their smoke alarms and see if their landlord supplies a safety ladder or fire escape.” Micheal Carabello, on-campus Emergency Manager, said.
James Sherman tries to stress to every student the importance of being careful, because “It won’t just take property, it will take lives.”