With fire safety on college campuses across the U.S. growing as a concern for their respective administrations, the University of Memphis took initiative to make sure that students, faculty and other staff are safe by offering classes to teach the importance of knowing how to use fire extinguishers on campus.
Last Wednesday, as a part of the UofM’s Safety Week, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety offered a class titled Fire Preparedness and Fire Extinguishers on how to use fire extinguishers correctly. John Langan, who led the class, is the operations manager for Floied Fire Extinguishers, a company he has been with for 17 years. Floied is the current vendor that supplies the fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems on campus.
Lagan said since 2000, 92 fatalities occured due to fires on campuses across the nation. In order to combat small fires, the UofM has installed over 2,000 Floied fire extinguishers across campus and a top-of-the-line fire suppression system.
Commonly found fire extinguishers on campus are the red powder extinguishers and the silver foam extinguishers. The red extinguishers are used to combat paper, wood and trash-based fires and are found in most classrooms. The silver extinguishers are used to combat grease fires and can be found in all kitchens and commercial cooking spaces.
“Kitchen fires account for 88% of all fires on campus, so it is important to know which fire extinguisher to use,” Langan said. “Many times, people panic and use the wrong fire extinguisher, which makes it much harder to put out the fire once the proper extinguisher gets found.”
In addition to increased awareness of fire safety and precautions, the newly-installed fire extinguishers themselves are safer to use around people. Langan said the new extinguishers on campus no longer contain any harmful chemicals.
“It will sting a little bit if it gets into an open wound, but the extinguishers are totally safe,” Langan said. “You can eat it, you can drink it, you can inhale it and it won’t hurt you, although I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Two classes held in the Rose Theatre regarding fire scenarios were geared toward the UofM’s security and maintenance staff.
“Typically, in our industry, we don’t get the student body involved on campuses to be involved in safety operations.” Langan said. “We have the resources of security and maintenance and engineering who are trained in that.”
Ashley Koehler, the manager for occupational safety at the UofM, said the classes are primarily used for compliance.
“These classes are two-fold,” Koehler said. “They meet a regulatory compliance, but more importantly to me they educate people.”
While the classes were geared toward UofM staff, Langan said it is important for everyone to know how to properly operate a fire extinguisher.
“Fire trucks and emergency response vehicles might take several minutes to respond to a call,” Langan said. “It’s important for everyone to know how to operate a fire extinguisher because when it comes down to it, you are the first responders to a fire.”
Koehler also said the information is applicable to everybody.
“Employees here aren’t the only ones who need to know how to escape a building or use a fire extinguisher,” Koehler said.
The UofM safety and health awareness week will cap off on Friday with Safety Palooza in the Student Plaza. It will be held from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. and is open to all students, faculty and staff.