The fire that killed three students and injured 63 others in a Seton Hall University dormitory Jan. 19 may seem like a distant tragedy, but the lessons from the terrible episode should reverberate through Foggy Bottom.
When a fire alarm sounds, GW students must follow proper procedure. Given the possible consequences of ignoring a fire alarm, that were made painfully clear at Seton Hall, the effort necessary to get out of bed and exit a residence hall is worthwhile considering the possible alternative.
Students who disregard fire drills face considerable penalties, including a $50 fine. In the case of students who pull fire alarms as a prank, GW policy imposes a $400 fine and possible eviction from campus housing. The penalty for ignoring a fire alarm or creating fake alarms should be weighed against a dangerous possibility – that occupants may get trapped in a real fire. In this respect, GW’s penalties for neglecting to follow proper fire alarm procedures are generous.
Residents in campus housing should be made aware of penalties for neglecting fire alarms by residence hall community directors and community facilitators. Simple knowledge of imminent penalties might further deter students from taking part in this senseless behavior.
Common sense fire safety procedures also should be observed. Cigarettes are often the culprit in causing fires. Students who smoke in residence hall rooms must do so responsibly – ensuring that lit cigarettes aren’t left unattended and that cigarettes are extinguished.
Moreover, CFs should promote greater awareness of fire alarm procedures. Residents of campus housing should know where their fire extinguisher is located and how to use it. If a fire does occur, residents should know whom to inform, because wasting time heightens risk of danger in fire situations.
The University is planning to review fire safety procedures, which is a positive step. With increased attentiveness to the latent threat of residence hall fires, the tragedy at Seton Hall need not be repeated.