Video highlights fire safety measures on college campuses

Parents of two Southern Illinois University Edwardsville killed in house fire in 2012 hope to shed light on fire safety measures and precautions on college campuses through an inspirational video.

After the death of two Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2012,  “a first-of-its-kind fire safety video” was created to insight public awareness of the dangers of fire safety both on and around college campuses. The video can be found at https://www.simmonsfirm.com/fire-safety-video/.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) students Lauren Petersen and Lacy Siddal were killed in April of 2012 in their off campus apartment. The investigation showed that there was a smoke detector inside the apartment, but it wasn’t going off when fire crews arrived on the scene. Edwardsville Fire Chief, Rick Welle said, “this is a university community. With students living both on campus and off campus, it’s of critical importance for us to make sure all of the fire protection systems are operational.”

In efforts to promote fire safety and awareness on college campuses, the Petersen and Siddall families created a video highlighting the importance of working and properly placed smoke and fire alarms. The families hope the video will educate university employees and students about fire safety, while also encouraging schools and off-campus housing facilities to “upgrade and maintain their fire protection systems.”

“The deaths of Lauren and Lacy were tragedies, and this video has in a way provided a form of healing by hopefully warning other college students, their parents and landlords about the risks of fire in both on- and off-campus housing,” said Ted N. Gianaris, the Petersen family attorney.

The video has been viewed by more than 31,600 college students nationwide. The families urge colleges and organizations, such as fraternities and sororities to show the video to members.

According to Center for Campus Fire Safety, a non profit organization whose mission is to spread public awareness of fire safety in efforts to reduce campus fire deaths, notes that from 2000 to 2014, “approximately 126 students have perished from fires that occurred on a college campus, in Greek housing or in off-campus housing within three miles of campus. More than 85 percent of the fatal fires during that time occurred in off-campus housing.”

Locally, the UConn Fire Department is dedicated to fire and accident prevention through, “a wide range of proactive fire prevention and public awareness education programs”, according to their website. Serving both on and off campus residences, the Department responds to nearly 5,400 emergency calls on average.

On campus, according to the Division of Public Safety website, “all campus housing, dorms and apartments have fire alarm systems that report directly to UConn’s emergency dispatch center.” Additionally, all rooms contain smoke and carbon monoxide detection units along with “fuel burning equipment, linking together the sprinkler systems in sprinklered buildings, and heat detection in mechanical and attic spaces.”

For off campus housing facilities, UConn Office of Emergency Management website states that “while all UConn residential buildings have sprinkler systems and every building has working fire alarms, it is very likely off-campus housing does not.”

To prevent a fire from starting, Emergency Management recommends installing a CO (carbon monoxide) detector, in addition to the existing smoke alarms. “Many companies produce a combination smoke/CO detector for a reasonable cost,” according to the UConn Emergency Management website.

Other off campus residences, such as the Oaks in Storrs Center, partake in similar precautionary measures. The Resident Handbook for the Oaks states that, “our maintenance team, along with the fire marshal, inspects the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on a regular basis. The smoke detector is hard wired but should there be a power failure, it has battery backup.” Oaks residents can find the full Handbook at http://www.theoaksonthesquare.com/Resident%20Handbook/Resident%20Handbook.


Abbey Rodden is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at abigail.rodden@uconn.edu.