Drills show better reaction to fire alarms, but improvements still needed

Posted September 30, 2015

Annual fire drills were conducted in academic buildings on the UW-River Falls campus in early September. While campus officials are pleased with the results, the head of the Risk Management office says there are still improvements to be made.

Connie Smith, director of Risk Management, is in charge of gathering data during the drills. With the help of the fire safety committee drill volunteers, data are gathered for the report that Smith turns into the UW System every year.

“One of the things we want students and all of our faculty and staff to understand is how to get out of the building in the quickest way possible,” Smith said.

It is required by law that campuses report how fire drills are conducted, in addition to the results of the drills. Therefore, interfering with the drills is illegal. Straggling behind, or not leaving a building at all, could result in some legal troubles.

Smith said students shouldn’t gather any personal belongings, should have swift action, and get out of the building.

“When the fire alarm goes off, it means that their lives are in danger, so we want them to get out as quickly as possible,” she said.

Kleinpell Fine Arts building took the longest to evacuate at 4:29 minutes, a time that was much improved from last time the drills were conducted. The CHILD Center and Davee Library also saw improved times from the previous tests. “They did very well this year,” Smith noted.

Problems included people not utilizing designated emergency exits. Smith said many students took much longer routes out of their classrooms, rather than using emergency fire exits.

“It’s OK to use a fire exit when we’re having a fire drill. We want people to take the shortest route possible,” Smith said.

South Hall seemed to have the most problems, with four reported stragglers, a class that did not use the shortest route out of the building, and a room in which, according to the report, “they couldn’t hear the alarm.”

The Risk Management office handles the fire drills for the academic buildings. It is the responsibility of Residence Life to do fire drills for the residence halls.

Doing the drill early in the school year helps, Smith said, “to raise awareness and get people thinking about it, and make sure they have that practice in order to be effective and evacuating when they need to.”

Smith also emphasized the goals of the next fire safety drill.

“I really want everyone to take this very seriously,” she said.