College community unfamiliar with emergency protocols

Much uncertainty with college procedures during crises


By Melbah Grace Jacob

Students in grade school tend to lose the importance of fire safety when moving into post-secondary school, says one expert from Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

At Langara, there have been at least two instances of alarms going off in the past two months. In both cases, several students and instructors appeared unsure what to do.

Kat Cornelius, fire inspector with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, said there is a lack of care and awareness in post-secondary schools, such as identifying where the fire extinguisher and fire alarms are located, and differentiating between a false alarm and an actual alarm.

“As you head off into high school, and especially off into university and college, there’s a really big red gap that needs to be bridged when it comes to fire safety,” Cornelius said. “Often, when we go to colleges and universities, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. There’s a kind of a lack of care from a lot of the staff.”

Cornelius said grade-school students are taught about fire drills, they have firefighters come into the school and teach them stop, drop and roll, and when to put water on something.

College community unsure

Zoe Kaushal, a second-year design formation student in the A Building, recalled a purported fire that triggered an alarm at the college on Sept. 21. She said students heard the alarm and saw a firetruck outside.

“We did not know what to do exactly, including our professor,” she said. “We still do not know what happened that day or which building was the fire at.”

She said instructors were unsure how to proceed, including guiding students on evacuation.

Many instructors said they are unsure of the protocols to follow when an alarm goes off and cannot identify which alarm means what.

Gayathri Murthy, an instructor in the department of nutrition and food service management in the B Building, said she is unfamiliar with the different alarms.

“Because I don’t know other alarms, I wouldn’t know how to differentiate that,” Murthy said. “I haven’t been exposed to it in my time.”

Langara safety procedures

Langara’s safety procedures are available on the college’s website, but students still depend on their instructors for guidance. Guests and new students often won’t do the research. On the website, it states that a “hard copy [is] located in every office and classroom.”

Fire extinguishers and alarms are situated around campus, and many classrooms have an emergency procedures “Quick Guides.” However, in the A Building, several classrooms did not, for example A254, A271, A272 and A276 (near the makerspace room).

Students and faculty call for more action

Aswin K. Ramesh, second-year business student in the B Building, said faculty and students should be educated on the steps they need to take in the event of an emergency.

“We see fire extinguishers in the classrooms but none of us know how to use them,” he said. “I believe basic training should be provided to both students and teachers.”

Philip Robbins, a fine arts instructor in the A Building, said everyone should be instructed on a common gathering spot in the event of an emergency or evacuation.

“Many students are relatively new and the navigation around the buildings [is] not easy,” he said. “We should let students know about a common spot and let them know before. They should know how to get there.”

In general, post-secondary students should be more aware of their surroundings and educate themselves on what they can do to mitigate the risks, Cornelius said.


VIDEO: Kat Cornelius, fire inspector with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, talks about the importance of fire safety

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