University of Missouri Coalition Promotes Safety with Mock Dorm Room Fire

Charles Dunlap

Columbia Daily Tribune


There was a fire on the University of Missouri campus Wednesday morning.

Except it wasn’t in any building.

The fire was part of a safety demonstration as the Safe Mizzou Coalition conducts its annual safety fair and safety courses for students.

The Columbia Fire Department created a mock dorm room at Lowry Mall and Speakers Circle to demonstrate how quickly a dorm room fire can grow.

One student was amazed at how quickly the mattress went alight and the response time from the fire department.

“I was a bit shocked. I thought it was fun seeing what it could be like and the reaction time of the officers to get there,” said Halle Theno. “I was shocked when the bed caught on fire (so) quickly. With the posters, I knew those were going to catch on fire quite instantly.”

Preparing students with fall safety week

The Safe Mizzou Coalition includes the MU Police Department, Columbia police and fire departments, Boone County Office of Emergency Management and representatives from the Campus Activities Programming Board and off-campus housing. The programming board includes staff and students.

The fall safety fair week is one of three events held throughout the year. Other events happen in the winter and spring.

MUPD shares tips for winter weather driving and preparing one’s vehicle in the winter, while in the spring the department shares tips on safeguarding a dorm room, apartment or other residence when students may be gone on spring break.

Safety demonstrations like the one held Wednesday have happened for at least 10 years, said Sara Diedrich, MU public safety information specialist.

Other events this week include a personal safety fair that was held Tuesday and active or violent intruder training set for Thursday evening.

“Participants learn how to react and respond to violent intruders by taking an active role in their own survival,” Diedrich said about the active or violent intruder training.

Students, faculty and staff each year complete an online training session about the campus-wide emergency response system known as MU Alert. Incoming students also learn about campus safety during Summer Welcome, Diedrich said.

MUPD receives regular invites to residential and Greek houses to discuss a wide variety of safety issues, she added.

“Many of the Greek houses make attending these sorts of events mandatory for their new members,” Diedrich said.

Safety demonstrations work

Education demonstrations like the one held Wednesday work, Columbia Fire Marshal Battalion Chief Jim Pasley said.

There are fewer on-campus fires than one would think, he said.

“We are really well-protected here on campus,” Pasley said, noting a lot of the buildings have sprinklers.

The demonstration likely had an impact on those who may live off campus in buildings that may not have the same fire safety features, he said. The fire demonstration went up in about three minutes.

He pointed out general advice for all students to not leave their kitchen unattended while cooking or have unattended candles. That is the typical start of those fires, Pasley said.

The smoke detector in the demonstration went off in about 15 seconds of the fire’s start. Once that alarm goes off, it’s time to go, Pasley said.

“The fire is going to double in size every minute it can breathe,” he said. “A minute later it’s up by the bed, after two minutes it has the bed, and after three minutes it’s up by the ceiling.

“The alarm is supposed to be loud. It’s supposed to wake you up and get you out of the building.”

Fires burn quicker and are hotter these days because of the types of products used in household items, Pasley added.

As you exit a room that’s on fire, shut doors behind you to stave off ventilation, he said, adding it is a good idea to sleep with doors closed in case of a fire outside your room.

“Make sure everything is turned off. Properly dispose of smoking materials, and at night, shut your door,” Pasley said. “If you shut your door and (the fire) is somewhere else, at least you are confined to your room and the fire is confined to that room.

“Little things can make a big difference.”

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