When it comes to Florida A&M University’s fire safety, the university has proven to be on top of it’s game. Once a year the Tallahassee fire inspector comes to FAMU to inspect each building to insure it meets fire safety standards. If one of the buildings is not up to par, the inspector has the authority to shut the building down until the problems are fixed.
If a fire were to break out on campus, the firefighters of Fire Station 3, on south Monroe, are set to respond. Among those blaze-fighting individuals is Battalion Chief Leroy James, a twenty-four year Tallahassee firefighter veteran. He said the time in which firefighters get prepared is typically two minutes.
“There are two things that should happen once an alarm goes off,” James said. “The building should immediately be evacuated and a call to dispatch should be made.”
Once a fire breaks out on campus, the fire department and the FAMU police department are expected to be onsite. Byron Whitaker, a fire captain, said that all phone calls the fire department receives are taken seriously.
“Ninety five percent of the calls made to dispatch are premature,” said Whitaker, 50, captain of the department for a year. “Depending on what the problem is, [determines] what the team may or may not bring on site, but all calls coming from your campus receive class ‘A’ response time and team equipment with more than what they need.”
University officials assure that fire safety codes are up to par on our campus. It is important that the alarms be sensitive enough to detect fire and smoke. However, some of the alarms on campus have proved to be over-sensitive. According to FAMU housing regulations, whenever the alarm sounds the buildings are to be immediately evacuated. Whitaker said it is better for alarms to be acutely sensitive, than have a disaster.
“I would rather the students evacuate the building ten times over, than me having to carry a student out one time,” he said. “Fire systems are set up to be sensitive, and you want your system to be extremely sensitive enough to detect anything, because you never know when it is the real thing.” Every time a false alarm occurs on campus it costs the university money for the fire department to respond. Fire officials encourage students to only pull the alarm if there is an emergency. Students also seem to agree that FAMU’s fire safety is premier. Brittany Merchant, 19, is one such student. Merchant, a sophomore living in McGuinn Hall, said she is pleased with the safety codes.
“As far as precautions are being taken, our campus fire safety codes are up to par,” said Merchant, a native of Fayetteville, N.C. “If there ever was an actual fire in the dorm I don’t think anyone would be left behind.”
Despite the fact that FAMU is prepared for a fire, James said that there are a few things that can be done to improve the fire safety system, equipment and regulations.
“I will make a meeting with FAMU PD and suggest changes for life safety, environmental safety and police department safety that will help constrict damage control.”
The fire specialists suggested having fire drills at least once a month, having a fire safety representative come to campus to speak with students, and having a master key to all dormitories.