‘Responsible for their own safety’


Photo by Kha Vo
Photo by Kha Vo

Student safety and knowledge on emergency fire situations is an ongoing concern. It is crucial for students of the Waterloo community to reach out to better understand what to do in the event of an emergency.

“First and foremost people think, ‘it will never happen to us,’ and secondly they don’t realize how quickly once a fire starts, you have to get out safely,” said John Percy, the public education officer at Waterloo Fire Rescue.

According to Percy, it is crucial for students to understand how to handle fire emergencies effectively.

A majority of the student population is new to the Waterloo area and are living and cooking by themselves for the first time.

“Fires occur where people sleep and live — not on campus,” said Percy.

In 2012, a student living on Lester Street experienced first, second and third degree burns from a grease fire, which the student unsuccessfully attempted to put out with water.

Percy explained that pot-and-stove situations are the leading cause of fire.

Water is generally the first solution people think of to put out a fire. But in the case of a pot-and-stove fire, Percy explained the best way to extinguish it is to take an oven-mitt and slide a lid over the pot, then take the pot off of the heated element.

“Whatever you do, don’t put water in it — I can’t stress that enough,” Percy said.

Smoke alarms are also a cause for concern. It is the law to have smoke alarms on every floor of a home, and recently a bill was passed stating all Ontario houses must have a working carbon monoxide detector near sleeping areas.

Percy said that batteries in smoke alarms need to be changed at least once a year, need to be tested every month and vacuumed periodically.

If a fire occurs in a bedroom, Percy advised making sure everyone is out and to close the door. For students living in residences, pull the fire alarm and wait in the designated evacuation area until the fire department arrives.

“The average emergency response time in Waterloo is four to five minutes,” said Percy.

“Students don’t realize once the fire starts how little time they have. You really only have two minutes to get out.”

Nicole Kats, a first-year health science student who lives in residence, said that she does not feel prepared in regards to fire safety, and her residence has not had any fire drills that she is aware of.

Another resident, first-year business student Jonah Jessop said he feels prepared in the event of a fire. Though in a different residence than Kats, he too doesn’t know of any fire drills that have occurred at his residence.

For students off-campus, Percy advised to make sure smoke alarms are working and to let your landlord know if there are any problems with them. Students should also be aware of two ways to exit their home.

“As human beings, the way we come into a building is the way we want to leave in the event of an emergency,” he said.

But depending on the circumstances of the fire, the front door isn’t always the best exit.

“People have to take it seriously,” said Percy.

“They’re responsible for their own safety.”

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