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Georgia State working to remove expired fire extinguishers

Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 11:01

PATRICK DUFFY | THE SIGNAL

A spot check revealed several ex- pired fire extinguishers around campus, including inside universi- ty offices and various parking ga- rages.

     Almost all of Georgia State's fire extinguishers were expired at the end of last year, although university officials expect to have all of the the aging safety devices replaced in the next two months.

    Fire Safety Officer McWhorter now estimates that only 25 percent of Georgia State's downtown campus fire extinguishers are past due and these should be replaced within the next two months, since a building can be completed in one day.

    "Please be patient," McWhorter said. "We're working on it."

    Almost 7,000 Georgia State fire extinguishers are currently being replaced by a company providing service under a temporary agreement.  By summer, McWhorter expects a permanent contract to be in place with a new fire extinguisher servicing company.

     A spot check of fire extinguishers last week in the College of Education, General Classroom Building and the library revealed all of those extinguishers were charged and ready for service.  McWhorter explained that the upgrades are being done "by building" but did not identify which buildings remained to be serviced.

     Still others checked in the parking garages and secluded areas of various buildings revealed expired extinguishers.

    However, McWhorter maintained that students were safe in the event of a fire while attending the university.

    "[Students] are very safe. We are checking all the buildings for fire alarms and sprinkler systems, and these are being monitored," McWhorter said. "We are very safe."

     McWhorter's job requires her to regularly inspect buildings, conduct fire drills, respond to questions and complaints relating to fire safety and to assist university engineers in planning.

   "Housing, followed by Georgia State Police will use [fire extinguishers] more than anybody else," McWhorter said.  "There is a portable extinguisher in every [police car]."

      A more serious concern for administrators, such as McWhorter, is that students do not know where fire extinguishers are located or what to do in case of a fire.

     "I teach classes here," said one graduate teaching assistant who declined to be identified, "but I would not know how to instruct my students to safety."

     All students interviewed said they felt safe at Georgia State but many gave confusing responses to questions about what to do in case of fire.  Several told of having been in a fire drill but few had been in an actual emergency evacuation.

      Students are urged by the fire safety officer to pull the alarm, call 911, and get out of the building if a fire is discovered. "We don't want to tell students to try and put the fire out," McWhorter said. "We want to put the emphasis on life safety first."

    Fire extinguishers are located on every floor of every building.  Fire alarms are located near every building exit.

     "We've had two serious fires since I've been here," McWhorter said. "One at the Lofts was pretty substantial and Atlanta Fire came.  That one did some damage.  The next one was at the Commons.  They were both considered accidental."

     Resident Assistants are required to attend fire safety training before school begins each year. 

    "They enjoyed it," McWhorter said. "They really got hands on experience where they could feel the heat, see what comes out of the cylinder and how to respond."

    Fire drills are held in university housing four times each year because most emergencies involving fires occur in housing.  McWhorter attributes this to students' "careless cooking activities" and the possibility that students may be smoking in the dorms even though this is prohibited.  Fire drills are held in all non-residential Georgia State buildings once each year.

    "Most of the time these drills are announced," said McWhorter. "I want to urge students to participate in the fire drills. Our emphasis is on making sure, if there is a fire, that everyone gets out alive. If a student hears a fire alarm they are to get up and get out of the building. Do not attempt to use the elevator."

    "I remember one time we were sitting in class," said Junior Robert Heal, "we didn't leave.  The weather was real bad that day, the lights were flashing, and we heard the sirens going off. The rest of the building, they got out."

    Fire drills are currently scheduled for the residential buildings at GSU on January 11 and 18.  State law requires the university to hold such drills within the first ten days of the beginning of a new semester.  Others will be scheduled for later in the year.

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