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New fire drills encourage more participation

By Kevin Lin     10/19/11 7:00pm

Fire drills may come and go, but students aren't always so cooperative. Rice hopes to change this attitude with a series of drills that place a greater emphasis on procedures and evacuation.

Director of Planning and Projects Daniel Fu is one of the people behind the revamped fire drills. Fu said this new effort is intended to increase awareness and adherence to protocol during an actual fire.

"We wanted to implement practical fire drills that were more in line with what you actually had to do," Fu said. "[Student Maintenance Representatives] would have workshops in the past … and they would have people come to the commons. The problem with that is that you're training people in a fire evacuation to come indoors."

Fu said the administration formed a Fire Task Force last year. This task force included himself, Chair of the Crisis Management Team Kevin Kirby, Head of Housing and Dining Mark Ditman, Lovett College master Marie-Nathalie Contou-Carrere and Associate Dean of Undergraduates Matt Taylor. Fu said they met six to seven times in the last year to discuss fire safety in residential colleges.

The task force both reviewed and drafted new evacuation routes for all the colleges, Fu said. These routes were then reviewed by RUPD and H&D. Criteria taken into account included the distance of the evacuation spot, lighting and ventilation.

The plan is to have every residential college go through the fire drill by the end of October, Fu said. These drills are all part of a larger plan to increase fire safety at Rice. Another round of drills is expected to take place during the spring.

"That is just the response part," Fu said. "What you would like to have is to educate before the response."

The smoke mazes and fire extinguisher training that now come with the fire drills are part of the new education. Fu said that Rice had always had these resources before but would only offer them upon request. Now, however, the university is being more proactive about student safety.

"You react as well as you have trained," Fu said. "We want to make this part of our culture of safety."

McMurtry College SMR Eddy Reyes helped oversee the McMurtry fire drill on Oct. 17. The procedure has been revised this year to make sure that everyone exits the building, Reyes, a junior, said.

"Everybody had to evacuate," Reyes said. "We checked every single room to make sure everyone evacuated."

Evacuation routes are posted along all the stairwells. Once outside, students were met with a table of food and a smoke maze. Reyes said that most colleges have around a 17-minute evacuation time; McMurtry's evacuation time was around 13 minutes.

"A lot of people don't think that buildings burn down," Reyes said. "What they don't remember is that Hanszen did burn down [in 1975]."

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