TAMUC Fire Safety

Sara Wray, Staff Writer

Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Department of Safety and Risk Management has a mission to keep smoke alarms and fire hazards under control around campus.

There are many rules when it comes to fire hazards on campus, particularly in the residence halls. Though students often complain about the rules, they are put in place to help protect against fire hazards.

Some of the most common fire hazards found on campus are improper use of power strips, extension cords, candles, and items being hung from sprinklers and smoke detectors. Small fires also ignite occasionally due to grease fires in the kitchens of some residence halls.

“We take [unapproved] things during inspections,” Justin Fregia, safety coordinator, said. “If we’re in a room, say there’s a smoke detector we need to work on, we look for stuff like that while we’re in the room. If we see it, a lot of times we’ll take it and maybe turn it in to the RA or hall director. We try to eliminate that problem as soon as we see it, or if [the resident] is there, we’ll have them eliminate the issue.”

“Our hope is that people will follow the rules,” John Harris, environmental manager, said.

In the last few years, most of the on-campus fires have resulted from cases of arson, where students have taken lighters and tried to melt posters, elevator buttons, and other items inside the residence halls.

Recently, there have also been cases of squirrels and other small animals getting caught in the motors of buildings. All of these fires were on a small scale, and no large fires have happened in recent years.

Often times, smoke alarms will go off in the residence halls due to other reasons besides smoke. Smoke alarms also go off because they’re dirty, due to people vaping against the rules inside the halls, when air conditioning vents are in too close proximity, and if the smoke alarm is too close to the kitchen.

Regardless of why a smoke alarm may be going off, there are safety tips in place to keep people inside the buildings and residence halls protected. The first step is to exit the building. In order to do this efficiently, it’s important to just grab the necessities, and exit as fast as possible.

“Treat every alarm as if it was real,” Harris said. “It’s easy to let your guard down if you have a lot of false alarms, I get that, but the thing that people need to keep in mind is to consider any fire alarm real. Another thing is that when you go to the door, feel for heat. If you don’t feel any heat on the doorknob or the door, you’ll be safe to exit on your way out. If you do feel a lot of heat, that’s a sign that the fire is probably right outside, and at that point stay in place and call 911. If you have a washcloth handy, wet it and use it to cover your mouth and nose to protect you to some degree from smoke.”

“It’s super important to have an exit strategy especially in residential areas and on campus,” Fregia added. “You may walk by an exit door every day and never notice it. Then a fire comes, and the last thing you’re thinking about is that exit door that’s in the hallway corridor. So, it’s good to know where they are.”

The Department of Safety and Risk Management can be found in Ferguson Social Sciences Building, Room 119B. For more tips or information, contact John Harris at [email protected] or 903.468.3129.