A Sad Anniversary

When I started my position five years ago as vice provost for student affairs, I looked forward to helping students learn leadership skills, develop and work through goals for their student experience and become involved with the University. Three weeks after I accepted the position, however, I received a phone call with the worst news possible. Three of our students had died in a house fire near campus and four of their housemates were homeless and distraught because they had lost their best friends. For the next two weeks, my time and the time of many staff on campus focused on working with the families of the fire victims, finding new housing for the survivors and planning a memorial service for the three students who died. I hope our community never has to experience such sadness again. Students moving into apartments or houses near campus should know about fire precautions and check their new space to locate smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Take a tour of the space youâÄôre renting and look for potential fire hazards. Before going to sleep that first night, take a few minutes to think about two escape routes from all areas of the house or apartment. Also, talk with your roommates about fire exits and a designated outside meeting place a short distance from the building. This week is the perfect time to discuss âÄúwhat ifâÄù scenarios with your roommates. Statistics show that fire is the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Some of the biggest contributing factors to fire fatalities are careless smoking and alcohol consumption. YouâÄôve heard the precautions before, but please take note: Smoke detectors save lives âÄî be sure they work; fire extinguishers are a basic precaution âÄî know how to use them; space heaters are dangerous and a safety hazard; donâÄôt overload electrical outlets; be careful when cooking and do not leave a stove or cooking appliance unattended; candles are an open flame âÄî be careful. Be careful when smoking. If there is a fire, sound the alarm or knock on peopleâÄôs doors and shout; evacuate the building and go to your designated meeting space; once outside call the fire department (911) and report the fire. Stay away from the building and out of the way of the fire department. Re-enter the building only after the fire department gives the all clear and says it is safe. For more information about fire safety and college students, see www.iGot2Kno.org. Go to that Web page, watch the videos, and take the interactive tests. LetâÄôs have a safe fall together. âÄîJerry Rinehart is the Vice Provost for Student Affairs. Please send comments to [email protected]