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Week's Theme: Fire Safety on Campus

It’s never too early to start thinking about fire safety and prevention, especially on college campuses, fire experts would say.

That’s why they’ve scheduled Campus Fire Safety Week from September 16 to 20, early in the semester for educational institutions across the country. That week, Smith and the other institutions in the Five College Consortium will hold events, demonstrations and informational sessions to impart to students and others on their campuses the importance and methods of preventing fires and what to do should one occur.

At Smith, firefighters and experts will staff a fire information tent on September 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Neilson Lawn. Fire extinguisher training sessions will be held throughout the day, and a Safe Trailer, used by fire departments for smoke evacuation training, will be parked on the Neilson lawn. The trailer allows participants to experience the smoky conditions of an actual fire firsthand as they maneuver through a mock bedroom with low visibility, under the close watch of fire safety personnel.

Also, a live burn (an actual demonstration fire) of mock student rooms will take place during the day. Two rooms, constructed for the purpose, will be set afire, one equipped with a sprinkler and one without.

Fire captains in each campus house will be briefed during the week on specific fire safety protocols, and residences and administrative buildings will conduct fire drills throughout the week.

At Smith, an average of 13 fire-related incidents have occurred each year since 1996, according to Public Safety records. The college has spent about $65,000 to repair alarms, smoke detectors and sprinklers during the past three years, says Barbara Spalding, a project manager in the Physical Plant and the college’s Fire Safety Week liaison. Each year, Smith spends $6,000 to test its sprinkler systems, she adds.

“My hope is that people will take fire safety seriously,” Spalding says. “If, by educating as many people as possible about safe practices, we can save lives and reduce damages, then we will have done a good thing for everyone.”

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