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New Downtown Structures Have Fewer Fire Alarms

Published: Monday, September 17, 2012

Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 16:09

ASU Fire Marshal

Jessica Zook, College Times

A new fire code is reducing the number of alarm pull stations required in some of ASU’s newest buildings.

Previously, the code required a pull station to be located within 25 feet from every exit door, which included doors leading to stairwells, because they are considered separate buildings, ASU Fire Marshal James Gibbs said. Now, buildings only need one.

A pull station sets off a building’s alarm system, which warns people of a fire before the smoke detectors are set off.

In Gibbs’ opinion, this is the only regulation in the new code that could be a negative change.

Gibbs said the frequency of false alarms had some influence in the change. If a fire truck is out responding to a false alarm and there’s a real emergency, then a fire truck from a further location has to respond to a real alarm, which takes more time and costs more money, Gibbs explained.

Additionally if a false alarm interrupts an exam, Gibbs said he can see where ethical issues could come up pertaining to how to finish the exam.

“I haven’t really seen (false alarms),” he said. “Occasionally there’s been a case, but out of the hundreds of buildings we have, it’s not really a good justification to me.”

The new fire code was made in 2003, and it’s less restrictive than the 1998 code, Gibbs said. Different entities came together to create an international code.

“Different groups came up with different compromises that I don’t necessarily agree with,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said the compromises could be attributed to a power struggle between the different groups and trying to decide which factors of fire safety are vital.

If the code is raised to a higher standard than it was before, every little building is supposed to make modifications to meet the code. However, not all can afford that.

All new ASU buildings have to meet the updated code, which include buildings on the Downtown campus, excluding the University Center, Mercado and Post Office; the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4 on the Tempe campus; and some buildings on the West and Polytechnic campus.

Senior Communications major Carlos Dominguez said he feels ASU protects students from fires well because there are fire drills and all employees go through fire training.

“Personally, I don’t have worries,” he said. “But if the school is worried about the safety of a large amount of people, I would think they would want as many of those (pull stations) around as possible.”

Senior Journalism major Danielle Chavez said that with the new code she feels safe in ASU buildings.

“I know that whatever is happening with the regulations, students’ best interests are still kept in mind,” Chavez said. “I doubt regulations would be made if it would harm the University or buildings.”

Gibbs said all ASU buildings and buildings with ASU related activities taking place inside are inspected on an annual basis.

“Life safety is the most important thing. We want consistency. We want to make sure all students receive the same protection,” Gibbs said.

All ASU workers, including student employees, are provided with fire safety training and education. However, Gibbs said there’s never been much education for students.

Dominguez said the most he knew was “stop, drop and roll.” He thinks fire education is important because not everybody is aware of the different types of fires and how to handle each one.

Chavez said that while she thinks fire safety education is lacking for the general population of students, it’s not the most important issue for the University to focus on.

“The people who need to know what to do, know,” Chavez said. “[Fire education] definitely is important – it has its place, but I feel not as much needs to be done promoting fire safety as much as something like substance abuse. It is something we’ve been taught since we were young. A lot of it is common sense.”

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