Fire safety in the dorms

A fire extinguisher in one of Southern Oregon University's residence halls
A fire extinguisher in one of Southern Oregon University's residence halls. With the exception of Madrone Hall, none of the halls have automatic fire suppression systems.

There is a new focus on fire safety in the residence halls after the early-morning fire Oct. 13 in Southern Oregon University’s Plunkett Center.

Fire safety is a top priority for people like Margueritte Hickman, Ashland Fire and Rescue’s Division Chief and Fire Marshal.

A fire can become very destructive very quickly, and Hickman wanted students to know some important tips that could possibly saving their life in an emergency.

“Have an emergency plan,” said Hickman. “Know where your external exits are.”

If you don’t know where the closest fire exit is, find your Resident Assistant and ask them. Some of the fire exits can be confusing to new students, especially in the Greensprings residence hall complex, which was designed to have students weave in and out of the building from the balconies to exit safely.

“There’s a certain amount of personal responsibility too,” said Hickman. “You are responsible for yourself,” which means making sure you know all they safety guidelines.

“You’re not kids anymore,” said Hickman. “You’re considered an adult.”

“If there are people violating rules…it’s important to let someone know,” said Hickman, referring to housing policies against lighted candles or the removal of smoke detectors.

“If you don’t it has the potential to hurt you,” said Hickman

If you feel unsafe, don’t know your fire safety information, or want information regarding your safety in the residence halls, ask an RA or contact Liz Green, assistant director of Residential Life at SOU.

“We take our fire safety codes very seriously in the residence halls,” said Green.

Excluding Madrone, all of the residence halls only have fire sprinklers on the first floor and smoke detectors in the rooms, they don’t have automatic fire systems like what saved the Plunkett building, according to both Hickman and Tim Robitz, director of the Housing Department.

The cost of putting in fire sprinkler systems in all of the residence halls could cost as much as the building itself, claimed Robitz.

Because of this, “anytime you hear an alarm, exit the building. Your safety first, always,” Robitz advised. “You can never hurt yourself if you exit when you hear an alarm.”

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