Thread: HELP!!! College in trouble!
02-25-2000, 12:49 AM #1DrewboFirehouse.com Guest
HELP!!! College in trouble!
I know I am not a officer, but this seemed like the best place to post this topic.
I am a college student and volunteer firefighter at Bloomsburg PA. We have a definate problem. Bloomsburg University, a state owned school with around 7000 students, has a habit of not calling the fire dept when they have a fire.
Granted I understand that it would be stupid and impractical to call us for Auto Alarms, or burnt toast, but they have repeatedly not called help when there is actual fire.
The problem lies in the University Police. They are good people, but they are not equiped to handle anything more than a trash can on fire. Take for example a fire that occured last semester. 3am a smoke alarm goes off in a dorm, the RA (desk person) investigates, as usual, finds there is fire. Someone lit a wooded door to a room, The university police also respond, evacuate the dorm. The actual fire itself is put out, but the RA and a Police officer are taken to be treated for smoke. The dorm is kept empty for 3 hours as the University Police TRY to ventilate the building.
I know this is getting long (sorry) but it is important. The Fire Dept has written many letters to the administraton expressing our concern over this issue. To put it simply we are told, they will call us when THEY feel they need us. I lead to point out that it will take 10-15 minutes to have the fire department attacking the fire after the first alarm comes in. (2 minutes for the RA to find there is a problem and call University Police, 2-3 minutes for the University Police to respond and asess the situation, 1 minute for the dispatch work at 911, 3-5 minutes before we can put an engine on scene, another 2 minutes till we get the attack lines in service)
I am going to be in front the Student Government, who actully holds alot of power at BU, March 13th. My cheif is helping me, but I need any advice I can get. Documents, articals, SOP's from departments that cover a college, your personal opinions, all would be valuable in this prosess. Sorry this was so long, but it is a complecated and important issue.
Thank you and be safe.
* God Looked down and
* saw this was bad, it
* was bad, it was Drew
02-25-2000, 09:03 AM #2Jim M.Firehouse.com Guest
Drew, in many states failing to report a fire is against the law. Not sure if that is true in your area.
With the recent fatal dorm fire I can't imagine any administrator wanting to assume the potential liability (both financial and public relations wise). You might try drafting a letter explaining the situation to the liability and property insurance carrier. Not calling the fire dept is a good way for anyone to lose their insurance coverage. Hope this helps.
02-25-2000, 09:52 AM #3Capt551Firehouse.com Guest
Drew - Call the state fire commissioner's office! I am sure that they would be willing to give you assistance.
Commissioner's Office State Fire Academy
Telephone 717/651-2201 717/248-1115
FAX 717/651-2210 717-248-3850
Address P.O. Box 3321 1150 Riverside Drive
Harrisburg, PA Lewistown, PA
Also - I am sure you have thought about your presentation, but use some local examples of failure to call the fire department for a fire. I am well aware of the tragedy at your institution a few years back which claimed the lives of several students from Bloom. This encouraged different regulations within your town. I think that this would be something to use as a wake-up call for them.
Last, and maybe most important, go into this meeting to educate the student government. In the experience I have had in working with organizations diplomacy and patience is the key to change. Look at the reasons that a change is needed (ie...life risk). Look at the negatives (ie...red lights and sirens creating a "circus" on campus - you know everybody has to come and see the red lights!) Then have people logically process - Do people want to have deaths and injuries, or, would it be better to cause a bit of disruption to the lives of the students in order to not have a disaster.
This is a tough situation and I hope for the best. Good luck and I hope to read your name in the local papers and creating a change for the good!
One more thing - Talk to your campus newspaper and have one of their reporters do some digging and put a news story together on it. Sometimes this approach helps to educate and can be a catalyst.
02-25-2000, 11:18 AM #4Lieutenant GonzoFirehouse.com Guest
Every student who attends the college should place a call, letter or e-mail home to Mom and Dad about this situation...7000 angry letters, e-mails and phone calls from parents can make a big impression on the school administration.
Your fellow students can also protest for themselves about the lack of concern for their safety. You have to make your voices heard..contact the local news media...after what happened at Seton Hall, I'm sure that they would be interested. Good luck and let us know how things work out.
Take care and stay safe...Lt. Gonzo
02-25-2000, 01:51 PM #5Bob SnyderFirehouse.com Guest
Hate to break this to ya, but this has been standard procedure across all 14 universities in the state system for years. I was an undergrad at << a State System school >> from 1984 thru 1988 and a firefighter with the station there who's first due included the campus. Same deal...no call to county or dispatch of "outside agencies" (fire, EMS, or PD) until campus police had responded and screwed up the incident...er, I mean, INVESTIGATED the incident.
There are a few possible motives for this, including (but probably not limited to):
1. the administration doesn't trust its students to make proper decisions on when to call (a load of crap)
2. fear of too many false alarms (probably legitimate, but doesn't justify the risk they're taking)
3. all schools in PA are required to report and publish crime and general emergency statistics, so they do everything possible to keep incidents either unreported (at least to outside agencies, who would actually keep records of them) or to declassify them. For example, << the city school >> where I did my grad work used to refuse to count shootings, rapes, etc. that happened literally right in front of dorms or classroom buildings on the logic that "public thoroughfares are under the jurisdiction of the City of << ------ >>"...in short, they conveniently defined the campus to end at the walls of the buildings...walkways, etc. didn't count. That way, the crime stats they had to show to the parents of incoming or prospective freshmen only showed the occasional petty larceny, fight, and underage drinking. Pretty neat, huh? (guess which motive I think applies)
I doubt that you will get any help from state agencies, since this crap is partly the state's own "dirty little secret". Your only chance is public opinion, and since we already know that the general public could care less because they're certain that none of this will ever effect THEM personnaly, you're probably fighting a losing battle.
I had really hoped that this policy would have changed since I've been gone, but they'll never learn until somebody gets killed (and somebody outside finds out about it). Good luck...you're gonna need it.
<< names of schools and places omitted to avoid potential litigation...you never know about people who keep dirty little secrets >>
[This message has been edited by Bob Snyder (edited February 25, 2000).]
02-26-2000, 08:54 AM #6RoccoFirehouse.com Guest
hey drewbo - what if the university gave you and other on-campus voulenteers radios and dispatched you to campus fire calls w/university police? that way, you'd have disgression to call out an engine if you felt the situation warranted it. not really a solution, but a better way for now. (sorry for posting on your board, drew, but i figured I'm gonna be working with this stuff soon anyway and it wouldn't help to check out some posts so I know a little bit of whats going on when the fire police tell me to block off the street and sit in my patrol car http://www.firehouse.com/interactive/boards/smile.gif )
03-05-2000, 10:39 PM #7MetalMedicFirehouse.com Guest
I am a campus cop in Ohio and a volunteer firefighter. But in Ohio this is a no-brainer... it is against the law NOT to report an unfriendly fire to the local fire department in this State. I find it hard to imagine it being any different in Pennsylvania. I like the idea of contacting the State Fire official there to get some assistance. You might also want to put the local politicians to work on this as well. I doubt that they would want the bad publicity of something like what happened at Seton Hall occurring there...
Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.
03-10-2000, 08:35 AM #8KniselyFirehouse.com Guest
Lack of fire safety awareness killed five students in Bloomsburg 5 years ago. It seems that all too quickly the community forgets about these tragedies. It is no different in Chapel Hill, or soon to be forgotten in Seton Hall. I would think your fire chief would have the ability to change the minds of the university. A letter drive from students and parents would probably pressure the university to change, but the FD needs to be the driving force and educate everyone involved of the need. Proactive education and prevention is the key. Good luck!
03-21-2000, 09:01 PM #9DrewboFirehouse.com Guest
Thank you to all who wrote on this subject. As you well know Bloomsburg University has been hit with a fatal fraternity fire on Sunday. Out of respect to the feelings on campus there will not be an open forum to discuss fire safety on campus. I think it is at the front of all the administrations minds.
Thank you all again for your help, information has been pased to the fire department and hopefully we can bring up the issue at a later time.
* God Looked down and
* saw this was bad, it
* was bad, it was Drew
03-24-2000, 12:12 PM #10Jim M.Firehouse.com Guest
Drew, your last post "Out of respect to the feelings on campus there will not be an open forum to discuss fire safety on campus." is somewhat puzzling.
I would have thought this would be the best time for college administration and local fire depts to sit down and review SOP's. 6 months from now changes will be harder to make as they will be referred to a committee that will not issue a decision until 2006.
04-04-2000, 02:54 PM #11fireseekerFirehouse.com Guest
Drew, I come from a department that had the exact same problem that you are having. Unfortunately it wasn't until the head of security was replaced before any changes were put in place. The main source of irritation with us was the fact that the local FM's had no jurisdiction over the "state" owned school. Therefore, the head of security didn't have to do anything he didn't want to. We had some incidents which could have been an qualified as an IDLH. Fortunately, they were lucky and nobody was seriously injured. My suggestion to you would be to try and contact a rep. from the State. Of course I am assuming that this is a state owned school. If that doesn't work, there is always the media to help. It doesn't take much to get the attention of parents who are sending their children to this school. If enough of them make enough noise, maybe something will get done. I wish you the best, it is a battle. Don't give up, there are too many kids counting on you to give them good solid leadership.
04-04-2000, 05:13 PM #12rogerkFirehouse.com Guest
Delays in calling the Fire department seems criminal as well as negligent to me. Especially puzzling is the fact that this school has had more than it's share of fatal fires. I cannot understand the position of the administration. However, can a 911 call be made by telephone to the local fire department from the dorms? Maybe the student body could instruct themselves to call in fires to the fire department. We always instruct people to make that phone call and not rely on the alarm system. Not all fire alarm systems are monitored, and there could be a problem with a monitored alarm anyway. So, calling 911 in the event of a fire or other emergency should be the protocal anyway. If the phone system won't give you the local 911 system, then maybe the fire/police/ems numbers could be posted. Most fire departments will not cancel a response until they themselves check out the problem. They may scale back the response if campus security calls them to cancel.
Amazing to me to think that the fire departments everywhere make every effort to get to calls quickly, but the biggest obstacle to quick response is delay in calling 911. Ever notice the firetrucks in station are facing outwards? The firefighters place their turnout boots and pants assembled at the trucks? The hoses are all connected together, many preconnected to the water outlets. Hmm, all to save a few seconds...why on earth do others feel they have the right to waste time? We would usually be more than happy to return trucks when not needed, just as long as we've got enough when it is needed.
04-04-2000, 11:02 PM #13DrewboFirehouse.com Guest
Rogerk, there is an interesting part of the problem BU faces. On campus, dialing 911 places the call into the University Police (Campus) not the 911 center. Talk about wanting to keep "situations" internal.
* God Looked down and
* saw this was bad, it
* was bad, it was Drew
04-05-2000, 02:59 AM #14rogerkFirehouse.com Guest
Drew, that's what I mean, have the regular phone number handy, not 911. Should be a backup number for emergency calls to dispatch. Have that number posted around.
04-05-2000, 09:34 AM #15FSRIZZIOFirehouse.com Guest
Let us know what happens.
04-05-2000, 09:34 AM #16FSRIZZIOFirehouse.com Guest
Let us know what happens.
04-05-2000, 06:01 PM #17rogerkFirehouse.com Guest
There are some recent discussions, and conferences held to discuss college fire safety issues. Quite a bit of information is available on the U.S Fire Administration website.
There are press releases, outline, discussions available online. They also have pamphlets and videos which can be purchased. There are also links to a few useful internet sites. Check them out, they are worthwhile. I did notice also, that a few remark about delays in reporting to 911 systems resulting in delayed responses. (college safety final report, and fire safety 101: factsheet)
Hopefully, student organizations as well as parents (there is a link to a parent association), might use the information to make a difference.
04-08-2000, 03:18 AM #18CollegeBuffFirehouse.com Guest
Heloo all, newbie to the forums here, but I've been visiting, and this is one of the posts that I wanted to toss my hat into. I go to a small college in Worcester and currently serve as a resident assistant in the dorms here. We have experienced something like the Seton Hall problem- complacency during fire alarms. In fact, I'm on duty tonight and we had a malicious pull of the alarm in the dorm next door about an hour ago. Everyone evacuates, but they sure take their sweet time about it, and stand in bunches right in the street, slowing the response of Public Saftey officers and, God forbid, fire apparatus. All dorms have automatic alarms that only sound in the PS office- with 11 or so collages, WFD would get sick of it pretty quick I bet. Procedure for fire alarms is for RA's to supervise the evacuation, keep students out of the streets and keep them from going back inside. Public Safety (sworn police officers, not rent-a-cops, contrary to popular opinion) responds, and goes door to door ensureng the building is cleared- every time, every alarm (often finding beer left behind in rooms that are having parties- kind of a cheap way to get written up, but it makes my paperwork easier hehehe). And any fire is IMMEDIATLY reported to the Worcester Fire Department. First due companies (including one that lost two members to the Cold Storage fire) are about 3 to 4 minutes away. We don't screw around with fires. We had an arsonist running around about 6 years ago; burned the counseling center to the ground. Almost lost the main gymnasium and an townhouse area a few years after that, don't know what the causes were there. We also coincidently have an officer who was once a firefighter. So I think that between our past unfortunate experiences and our training, Assumption College is well prepared for any fires. Of course, I'm sure that's what Seton Hall thought too...........
04-08-2000, 02:32 PM #19rogerkFirehouse.com Guest
I know only about half the states use NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, but, it requires "immediate notification of the public fire department by telephone or other means". Whenever the alarm first notifies security, then they check it out to see if there's an actual fire or not, that process is in violation of the requirements of that code.
Delays in notification because of recurring false alarms is a failure of the fire alarm system and it's design. Certainly a small volunteer department would get sick of responding to frequent false alarms, and certainly frequent false alarms results in complacency by the occupants when the alarm sounds. I can't blame the students for not taking the alarm seriously, when the public safety department of the school ALSO does not take the alarm seriously. When security decides they'll NOT call the fire department, they're assuming it's a false alarm.
Now, having said that, what is the solution to the false alarm problem? After all, college fires do occur, and the life hazard is real. Take a look at the poor record of life loss in college dorms. Heading the list published by the USFA, arson is the leading cause of college fires, followed by cooking, then careless smoking. The alarm system can be initiated by the sprinkler system, (and of course any detection system)which would be a more reliable initiating device than manual pull stations. No, sprinklers? Maybe it's time they are installed. Manual pull stations in a sprinklered building can be then located at a convienant location under continuous supervision. In buildings with manual stations located on each floor, near each exit etc., the alarms can be encased in a cover which when opened sets off a local alarm, and could notify security or any in-house supervisor. There is availabe low cost security cameras which can monitor the manual pulls. Detection system today are advanced enough that they can take sampling to determine the authenticity of smoke particles or of maintanence problems with the devices. By the way, those sleeping room detectors should be single station, that is, like the ones we have in our homes. They should sound only in the room or area of detection. They are intended to warn the occupants in the sleeping room, and are prohibited from initiating the building alarm system. How many of these detectors are initiating the building system, and creating another way of causing numerous false alarms?
When we do fire drills, are they done in a realistic way? Do they block a random exit so that the students seek their alternative exit? Can't their be adequate rules and punishments given for not evacuating quickly, and certainly for initiating a false alarm? In Connecticut, a false alarm is a misdomeaner crime, we routinely arrest anyone caught.
I think there is a number of solutions to the problems of false alarms. My opinion is that an unreliable fire alarm system is little better than no alarm system at all. I still have to emphasize that from the start of a fire to flashover is pretty well established as occuring in under 10 minutes. There is not enough time to delay, every second counts.
04-12-2000, 09:05 PM #20smokeaterFirehouse.com Guest
We have the same problem in Lawton Oklahoma. We are a fully paid dept. and the two 10 story dorms are under supervision of 1 man and he used to stop us at the door and say that HE HAD EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL.
The fire marshal went head to head with the university director with little progress.
With the recent fire in a collage, we may be able to convence all the parents to demand compliance with the life safety codes .
A law suit could help too.
04-12-2000, 11:37 PM #21CollegeBuffFirehouse.com Guest
Update on my situation here: the student government has voted to install ink charges on the pull stations in the dorms. Still waiting to see what the administration does with it- their approval is still neccesary. They currently have a cover and tamper alarm, but that actually caused an alarm recently- a resident trying to get the tamper alarm to shut off tripped the full one.
04-18-2000, 02:31 PM #22fd186Firehouse.com Guest
I work as a Patrol Officer for a small privatley owned college, and have faced similar problems. To alliviate the fire dept. from responding on all fire alarms activated on the main campus a policy was devised. simply put here it is
When the fire alarm is received, either a resident or an RA will callour dispatch center(and at 3AM lots of people call) and a patrol officer is sent. If at the time of call if any of the callers state tha see fire or smell smoke, the local FD is called right away. If when the officer arrives, he finds a fire or smoke in the building the FD is called right away. This has worked well, as we have RAs on every floor of every dorm building, and now when the local FD is dispatched for a fire at the college, the response is generally fast, because the volunteers know that there is definetly a problem.
Working there I know first hand that if this policy was not in effect, the local FD would be running up there sometimes 15-20 times a week. As these bildings are very old, and the college allows the students to smoke in there room,(<--- do not agree with that at all) the fire alarms tend to go off quite frequently. The above agreement was reached y the College and the local FD working together to address the problem.
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