Within about 90 seconds, smoke and flames completely engulfed a model dorm room in front of the eyes of spectators at Speakers Circle on Wednesday.
For 13 years, the Department of Residential Life, Department of Student Life and the Columbia Fire Department have collaborated to bring a visual example of how dangerous fire can be to campus.
This year’s Fire Factor and Room Burn were a part of Safety Week, which runs Sept. 16-20.
“We are trying to provide information about safety within student rooms, whether those are residence halls, apartments or off-campus apartments,” Residential Life spokeswoman Jill Fox said. “We are trying to give students an idea of what could happen in their rooms and how to be more safe. We hope this event is memorable, impactful and educational.”
Fire Captain John Metz said he believes the Room Burn is important for educating students on fire safety and he enjoys watching students’ reactions to the demonstration.
“The Room Burn is one of the tools in our toolbox for public education,” Metz said. “This event particularly targets the college student demographic…. The feedback that we continuously get is that students had no idea that the room would burn so fast.”
The model dorm room is constructed with standard materials used to build houses and residence halls and contains regular furnishings and appliances, Metz said. The demonstration began with a piece of paper being lit and tossed into a small trashcan.
A smoke detector sounded an alarm after about 15 seconds.
“I didn’t think the room would burn so fast,” freshman Keli Sloan said, “I was really surprised. There was a big group of people around me, and they looked really surprised too. I think people are more aware of what can happen and how fast it can happen.”
MU Environmental Health Services provided students with the opportunity to learn how to use a fire extinguisher properly.
Columbia Fire Department staff members also set up an obstacle course at the event where students could put on firemen gear and rescue a mannequin.
Graduate student Zhixin Ren tried her hands at the obstacle course and said it made her realize what hard work it is to be a fireman.
“(Fire Factor) helped me realize that fire is so dangerous,” she said, “and now I know how to better protect myself.”
According to a 2012 Clery Report, there were six fires in MU residential facilities that damaged $2,593.60 worth of property. The fires occurred in Bingham Commons; Defoe-Graham, Laws and Wolpers residence halls; University Village Apartments and Tiger Diggs.
Four of the fires were caused by cooking accidents.
“When you think of a student who comes to college, often this is the first experience they have living on their own, out from under their parents’ wing,” Metz said. “So they have to start taking a lot more personal responsibility for fire safety instead of relying on someone else.”
Safe Mizzou Week brings campus health and safety organizations together to generate greater awareness among students. Assistant Fire Marshal Jim Pasley said Environmental Health Services and Columbia Fire Department staff are hoping that Fire Factor promotes fire safety in residential facilities.
“This is our eye-catching event,” he said. “I can’t change human behavior, but I can plant something in people’s minds for the next time they see a fire or hear (a smoke alarm), and that’s the whole goal.”