WWU creates mock fire to alert students of dangers

A mock residence hall room will go up in flames as William
Woods University works to alert students of fire dangers. The furnished “room”
will be torched Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 3:30 p.m. at the Fulton Fire Station.

WWU wants to avoid tragedies like the one in the early
morning of Jan. 19, 2000, when a fire killed three students and injured 58
others in a Seton Hall University dormitory in New York. After the fire,
colleges and universities were forced to ask themselves, “How do you get
students to understand the importance fire safety?”
With donations from Sutherlands and WWU, Fulton firefighters
have provided their time and labor to construct a mock residence hall room. The
room contains the basics of a college dorm: computer, bed, posters, etc.
“Periodically, we have events like this where we create a
memory for students. When we create a memory, it gives them something to pull
from if a situation like this were to happen,” said Mike Wills, director of
residential life and campus safety. “The speed at which things burn really
validates steps and procedures taken to enhance fire safety on the Woods
More than 200 students gathered for a similar event in 2008. Bleachers
will be provided this year to provide students a better view of the burn.
“To improve our event from a few years ago, we plan to
educate students about what they can and cannot have in their dorm rooms. We
plan to provide alternatives and inform students where they can find these
products,” Wills said.
According to the National Fire Protection Association,
structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and barracks are more
common between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., and on weekends.


“For many 18-22 year olds, it’s all about the college
experience. Fire safety and life safety are the last things on their minds
until it happens to them,” said Todd Gray of the Fulton Fire Department.
William Woods University, with the help of Fulton firefighters,
works to ensure that campus safety officers and student community advisers are
aware of fire dangers. Before the start of school each fall, student community
advisers participate in a fire safety course offered by the Fulton
Fire Department.
These students, who live in and
oversee residence halls at the Woods, get hands-on training in the proper use
of a fire extinguisher, followed by a simulation that includes smoked-filled
hallways and blocked exits.
WWU’s fire alarm equipment is closely monitored by a company
in Raleigh. If anything is detected, the Fulton Fire Station will receive a
call before campus security.
“The importance of the fire station receiving the call first
is early detection. Typically, a fire will double in size every 60 seconds,”
Gray said.
Anytime the system needs a maintenance check, an alert will
be sent to Raleigh. Therefore, the campus is monitored 24/7 to ensure the
safety of Woods students, faculty and staff.
“Everyone seems to think it won’t happen to me,” said Gray.  “WWU should be thankful to have someone like
Mike (Wills) who is very aggressive about safety and makes sure everyone’s kids
come home.”
“Part of campus security’s job is to make connections for
students to understand it can happen to them,” says Wills. “Everything I do, I
do like it’s my own children in those halls.”
Emergency safety information can be found on the WWU’s
website, www.williamwoods.edu.  
Fulton firefighters torch and
put out a mock residence hall room fire in 2008 to show William Woods
University students the dangers of fire.
The charred remains of the
mock residence hall room after a demonstration in 2008.