Greek fire safety inspections begin

Posted on Sep 10 2014 - 10:06am by Kylie McFadden

A week after the tenth anniversary memorial for the victims of the Alpha Tau Omega fire, fall fire safety inspections have begun for all Greek housing.

The Pi Beta Phi house was the first to be inspected yesterday. An electrical malfunction had caused a chandelier bulb to spark in the house on Aug. 19 and was fixed during the inspection. The other houses will be inspected over the next few weeks for various safety hazards.

Inspections occur in academic, auxiliary and athletic buildings annually while housing facilities and Greek houses are inspected in the fall and spring semesters of each school year. During inspections, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers and fire-rated doors are confirmed to be up-to-code, and electrical wiring issues, storage of combustible materials and general housekeeping issues are fixed if necessary.

Ethan Peterson, coordinator of fire protection services with the physical plant department, said that the primary concern during a fire inspection is the ability of occupants to safely and efficiently exit the building should an emergency occur.

“We train the faculty and staff to identify the location of the buildings’ exits and means of egress and encourage them to keep these areas unlocked and unobstructed,” Peterson said.

“Every fraternity and sorority house receives regular inspections by the fire marshal,” Dean of Students Melinda Sutton said. “The most important steps members can take to minimize fire hazards are to listen to the fire marshal’s feedback and to follow the preventative advice and guidance he provides.”

Lionel Maten, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and director of student housing, said fire safety systems in residential buildings are being updated on a rotating basis.

“All of our residence halls are sprinkled and have fire alarm systems in place,” he said.

Crosby Hall was the residence hall updated most recently with a new alarm system having been installed this year.

In addition to the sprinkler systems and fire alarms in residential buildings, all Greek houses are equipped with sprinkler systems. The most recent of which was installed in August 2013 and contains fire extinguishers.

Peterson recommends familiarizing oneself with all possible exits from a building and assuming that all fire alarms are potential hazards and not merely tests.

Between 2007 and 2011, an average of 3,810 structure fires occurred in various buildings on college campuses, causing an average of 2 civilian deaths and 30 injuries, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The hours of 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., as well as weekends, are the hours when most fires in dormitories and Greek buildings occur.

Sutton said Ole Miss and the city of Oxford are well prepared in the event of on-campus fires.

“Both have had experience dealing with fires in houses on this campus, unfortunately, and I believe the university and the city have sound processes to prevent and address fires should they occur in the future.”