Fire related incidents such as the Theta Chi fire, may lead students to wonder how safe their own houses are and what they should do in the event of a similar situation.
GC’s Assistant Director of Operations and Maintenance Shea Groebner said the most important thing students can do to avoid fires, especially in off-campus housing, is to stay aware of how many appliances are plugged in at a time.
“Do not plug too many things into the outlets in these old homes,” Groebner said. “A lot of these old homes that sororities and fraternities are living in were built with different codes without proliferations of televisions and Xboxes and phone chargers and iPads.”
Additionally, students should also be sure to avoid using electric heaters at all costs and check smoke detectors every six months if living off campus. They should also spend time preplanning, which means knowing at least two different ways out of the house in the event of a fire and knowing the safest possible way for everyone to exit.
As for on-campus buildings, students should rest assured that they are all up to code. Most campus housing was built fairly recently, during the 2000s, and all buildings are inspected yearly.
Frank Baugh, GC’s director of operations and maintenance, discussed a series of improvements to the system that are set to be put in place within the next few years.
“We have an on-going program to modernize our fire alarm panels to state-of-the-art, addressable fire alarm control panels with emergency voice communication,” Baugh said. “We hope to be complete within a few years and can expect to enjoy safe and reliable service from this system decades into the future.”
In the event that a fire should break out, GC sophomore Candler O’Neal, a volunteer firefighter, suggested a few important tips for students.
“Walk—do not run—too many people have been hurt or died in a stampede due to panic,” Candler said. “Always check doors for heat before opening them by using the back of your hand with a glove or cloth on it to prevent burns.”
Between walkthroughs conducted by the fire department, consistently keeping all fire exits cleared and spending over half a million dollars on fire alarms, GC understands the threat of fire and does everything possible to prevent one from breaking out.
Fraternity and sorority houses, however, are not campus properties, so GC is unable to make sure they following fire safety procedures.
The most recent fire before the Theta Chi house occurred at the Delta Zeta house about four years ago. While the incident was not as severe as the Theta Chi fire, GC is aware of the fact that many sorority and fraternity homes around Milledgeville are old and susceptible to fires.
“I am in the process of trying to develop some sort of training or informational guide for our sororities and fraternities to be a little more proactive,” Groebner said.
Graphic by Sara Marchman | Contributing Graphic Designer