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This item originally appeared in the May 13, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.


Staff Writer

Troy Tryon, director of building services and facilities, said it was hard to determine whether the December 2002 Cottingham Residence Hall incident was the reason all schools in the University of Louisiana System had to upgrade their fire systems last year, but "I'm sure it was a contributing factor," he said.

Reggie Morris, a graduate student of computer information systems, remembers the 2002 fire in Cottingham. He said he first saw smoke under the door and thought that was unusual.

"I heard someone shouting, 'Fire!' down the hall and got out," Morris said. "The fire alarm didn't go off until five minutes after the police showed up."

Tryon said the state fire marshal ruled last year that alarm systems in residence halls must be heard at 70 decibels or greater at the sleeping spot in each room.

"Other than the alarm [noise level], there has not been a significant recommendation beyond routine maintenance," Tryon said.

Dickie Crawford, dean of student life and auxiliary services, said the residence hall alarms had been checked and approved by the fire marshal before the 2002 fire; however, he said new standards were set a year ago to increase the decibel level, forcing Tech to replace or upgrade the previous systems.

"We spent a significant amount of money replacing or repairing [the alarm systems]," Crawford said. "This was a new emphasis by the fire marshal with new regulations. It had to be done in every university."

Sam Speed, director of residential life, said the university has never been in violation of a serious offense and is up to code on fire safety. He also said the students living in the building are the most important defense against fire consequences.

"We periodically do complete fire drills where residents have to evacuate the building," Speed said, adding that each residence hall was drilled last week. Speed said resident assistants are only given basic training when it comes to fire safety, but there are many ways they can help.

"The best thing an RA can do is find illegal items like candles or open heating elements," he said. "If they do a good job at finding those objects, that is the best thing they can do."

Speed also added that the level of communication among residence is important.

"People save lives," he said.

Tryon agreed that residents need to take fire safety seriously.

"What amazes me is that students are unaware of fire safety and where they live," he said. "The alarm can be going off, and they just watch TV. That is more of a concern for me than anything else."

Tryon said required fire drills are conducted quarterly, except during summer sessions.

"We had always in the past made every effort possible to comply with the fire marshal," Tryon said. "We take fire safety very seriously, and I think we do a pretty good job."

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