Since Jan. 2000, 162 fire-related fatalities occurred on campuses across the country.
As a part of a national campaign, the University of Pennsylvania’s Division of Public Safety and the Philadelphia Fire Department will hold its annual Campus Fire Safety and Emergency Preparedness Day Friday, Sept. 27, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
But something a little different is happening this year.
Not only have the activities moved to Hamilton Field, located east of 40th Street between Locust Walk and Walnut Street, but also the Division of Public Safety is constructing two dorm rooms in the middle of the field – just to purposely light them on fire.
With the help of the its fire and emergency services team, under close supervision from the Philadelphia Fire Department, the Division of Public Safety is planning to do a live demonstration of just how quickly a fire can move.
One of the 8 x 8 x 8-foot dorm rooms will have sprinklers; the other will not.
Gene Janda, the chief of fire and emergency services at Penn, explains that these kinds of “side-by-side burns” are real simulations of actual dormitory fires.
“The purpose is to highlight the huge contrast between a room with sprinklers versus a room without sprinklers when a fire ignites. Sprinklers literally could mean the difference between life and death or serious injury,” he says. “Sprinkler and fire-detection systems are wise investments. They save lives, conserve property and prevent tragic endings to college careers.”
As a part of this annual event, representatives from DPS’s Fire and Emergency Services and the Philadelphia Fire Department will be stationed at intersections across campus to distribute literature and answer commonly asked questions like how often to change the batteries in the smoke detector, the best ways to create a family’s home-escape plan and what to do in the event of a fire.
Designed to promote home fire safety awareness, the fire department’s fire safety trailer will be set up for tours by students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Campus Fire Safety and Emergency Preparedness Awareness Day will conclude with a press conference at noon, featuring Lloyd Ayers, fire commissioner of the City of Philadelphia and Maureen S. Rush, vice president for public safety at Penn.
“A University-wide effort was undertaken with the full support of the board of trustees, the president, the provost and the executive vice-president to ensure the safety of students in housing, ” Rush explains. “Over 31 million dollars has been invested to fully sprinkler all college houses, fraternities and sororities on campus. This extra precaution is priceless in the face of a quick-burning fire in a residence hall.”