The recent fire in Thurston Hall was an incredible tragedy, as one GW freshman remains in critical condition from injuries sustained in it. The fire inspired an outcry calling for the University to install in-room sprinkler systems that may have lessened or prevented the student’s injury. While the implications of such a step are a complicated proposition, one practical step the University must take is improving its system of educating students about fire safety and the correct procedure one should take during a fire.
In general, there exists a dearth of fire safety education at GW. Despite being told that certain appliances and substances – such as George Foreman grills and candles – are prohibited, students fail to recognize they are banned because they have the potential to cause a fire and serious injury or death. Because of the prevalence of false fire alarms, students automatically assume any alarm does not signify a fire. As a result, students have not sufficiently educated themselves about evacuation routes, when to use or not use a fire extinguisher and other common sense procedures.
In light of this recent tragedy the University should take the opportunity to find an adequate way to sufficiently educate the student body on fire safety. It should consider featuring fire education more in freshman year floor meetings and adding a track during freshman advising. It should even consider creating a required one-credit course on personal safety that along with teaching fire safety, could also educate students about homeland security issues.
Ensuring students are adequately instructed on how to act during a fire emergency will help diminish the chances this tragedy has of repeating. GW should ensure it is doing so by utilizing existing mediums, and creating new ones, to instruct its students on this matter.
This article appeared in the April 4, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.