WHEELING - Fire safety and other safety issues are generally not a high priority list of things to think about at college. In Ohio, authorities are working on a new program in an attempt to change that.
The Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office has started a pilot Campus Fire Safety Ambassador Program to teach college students the dangers inherent to college campus fires. The program, conducted by the staff from the Ohio Fire Prevention Bureau and the Ohio Fire Academy, trained students from Kent State University on identifying the dangers of fire development, the effective use of fire safety equipment and how to develop and execute effective exit strategies.
"This new program is primarily aimed at colleges with dormitories and will teach fire prevention awareness, what to do with alarms and extinguishing," said Frank Conway, chief of the Ohio Fire Marshall Fire Prevention Unit. "Most schools talk to students about fire safety in their orientation meetings. We want to re-inforce what schools are doing and develop a standardized program that can be used at each school in conjunction with their local fire departments. In the future we want to look at those living off campus."
West Liberty University Residence Assistant Jeff Tice, of Chester, left, goes over the fire escape plan in Rodgers Hall with junior Kacie Murray, of Lumberport, W.Va.
Ohio State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers added, "We have a responsibility to prepare our students to leave the high school environment, where they are living at home, to enter a college environment and living on their own to keep them safe. This program will go a long way toward improving their safety prospects so that their parents can rest easy."
While this particular program is for schools in Ohio, local universities in the Ohio Valley have plans in place to stress the importance of fire safety to students.
"We have a fire safety plan in place and drills are done on a regular basis," said Maureen Zambito, director of media relations at West Liberty University. "A full list on what to do in the event of a fire is available on the university website."
At West Virginia Northern Community College, Bob DeFrancis, director of communications, noted, "While we don't have dorms ... we provide information in each classroom on what to do in the event of an emergency. We also have formal fire drills and other safety drills which we do in conjunction with local authorities at all our buildings on a regular basis."
At Wheeling Jesuit University, Steve Habursky, director of campus security, said the university does fire safety training with all members of the staff once each year. Members of the residence life staff also go through fire safety training at least once a year.
The residence life staff also has meetings with students in the residence halls at the beginning of the semester to talk about fire safety. Fire drills were done last week in conjunction with the Wheeling Fire Department in all residence halls. Fire drills will be held in other campus buildings later in the year.
Officials at Belmont College said fire safety and evacuation procedures are in place at all campus locations and are covered during the college's employee training forum as well as the beginning of each term. The college also has a multi-dimensional safety manual, which includes fire safety plans that are listed in the college catalog for students. Reminders are also sent by e-mail to all students and employees.
E.J. Schodzinski, marketing director at Ohio University Eastern, said the college has a safety committee made up of faculty and staff responsible for reviewing, updating and communicating campus emergency procedures to faculty, staff and students, including fire safety procedures.
Schodzinski said the college holds two fire drills each academic year in coordination with the Cumberland Trail Fire Department. The fire department provides feedback on the evacuation to assist with improvement planning.
Instructors are also provided with an Emergency Procedures Quick Reference Guide at the beginning of each school year.