Demonstrations inform students about fire safety

Kevin Gareau

Kent Fire Department moves in to control a fire safety demonstration held in Manchester Field yesterday at noon. The demonstration showed students how sprinklers help save lives when a fire breaks out in a dorm room. REBECCA MOIDEL | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall


The fire in both residence hall rooms started the same way.

Paper in a wastebasket caught fire and spread through the room. Flames in one room engulfed everything in their path. In the other room, the sprinkler system extinguished the fire in seconds.

Both fires were part of a demonstration held yesterday in Manchester Field as part of the National Campus Fire Safety Month Kickoff. About 30 students were on hand for the demonstration.

The event was sponsored by Kent State, Campus Firewatch, the city of Kent and the Ohio Fire Safety Coalition.

Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch, said the purpose of the event was to instruct people on how to protect themselves in fires.

He said Kent State was chosen for the event because of the university’s excellent track record for fire safety. He also said Ohio leads the nation with the most campus-related fire fatalities since January 2000 with 14.

The event featured a sprinkler demonstration, proper use of a fire extinguisher, a smoke trailer, a press conference and the burning of two mock residence hall rooms.

Comeau said this is the 3rd year Campus Fire Safety Month has been held.

“Ohio has joined 25 other states in issuing a proclamation designating September as Fire Safety Month,” he said.

Dean of Students Greg Jarvie said during the press conference Kent State is committed to fire safety, but students must also take the initiative to prevent fires.

Matthew Kuwatch, executive director of the Ohio Fire Safety Coalition, said campus-related fires are becoming more prevalent.

“The 2006-2007 year was the most fatal one on record,” he said.

According to Campus Firewatch, 20 fatalities occurred in 2006-2007, an increase from 11 the year before.

Kuwatch said a recent national survey showed most students don’t know what to do in a fire.

“The most common answer students gave to the question of what to do in a fire was stop, drop and roll,” he said. “We’ve got a big problem.”

Kuwatch said students should always know two ways to get out of any building in a fire.

“There has never been a multi-fatality fire in a building with properly installed sprinklers,” Kuwatch said.

During the press conference, Doug and Linda Turnbull talked about how their daughter Julie died in an off-campus fire at Miami University in 2005.

Doug Turnbull said when police told him there had been a fire, he didn’t know how to react.

“At first I didn’t know what they meant,” he said. “I thought, ‘Those poor kids, but why are they telling us?'”

The next day, police told them Julie was killed. Since then, Turnbull said he and his wife have been telling people about fire safety.

Turnbull said the house Julie was renting did not have sprinklers, and the landlord didn’t even put them in after the fire.

Turnbull said parents should talk to their children about how to prevent and escape from a fire.

“If we can help someone else from the same fate as Julie’s, then we can make a difference and make Julie proud of us,” Turnbull said.

Contact safety reporter Kevin Gareau at [email protected].