Burning holes in fire safety

By SpencerRoush

In theory, everyone knows what he or she should do if a fire breaks out.

Calling 911 is always step one, but embarrassingly enough, I’d probably scream with my hands up in the air dancing around before grabbing my phone to dial. It seems like a natural reaction, but fires are undoubtedly shocking and everyone doesn’t respond appropriately.

Many people never think this could happen to them, but when it does, they’ll return to their Smokey Bear and Sparky the Fire Dog days to try to remember

proper procedure.

A couple of Columbia students were forced to do just that on April 16 at The Buckingham, 59 E. Van Buren St., as some leftover french fry grease ignited in their kitchen, causing a great blaze that ruined their appliances and a cabinet, among other things.

After they supposedly turned off the stove top’s heat and let the grease cool, it was still hot enough to catch on fire and put the roommates into a panic. They ran out of their room, where a battery-operated smoke alarm sounded, and went into the hallway to find an alarm to pull because the main alarm hadn’t gone off. The two students failed to find one and went down to the front desk for assistance where they called 911.

The roommates didn’t notice there was a fire alarm right next to their apartment door before running down the hallway in search of one. Panic can make people overlook the simplest details that could save a lot of hassle and possibly lives. Luckily, this fire was contained to the kitchen, but if not, those valuable minutes scurrying to find an alarm and running down to the lobby for help could’ve made all the difference.

Counting on smoke detectors isn’t failsafe. The Buckingham alarm never sounded because the fire wasn’t hot enough to set it off, even though there was enough smoke billowing from the kitchen that people on the fourth floor could smell it. Other detectors can be touchier, like the one a fellow staff member set off last year when only some burnt bacon sounded the alarms and caused an evacuation.

Even though these Columbia students panicked, the fire was thankfully extinguished with no real consequence. This scenario could happen to anyone and should act as a catalyst for students to review fire safety procedures and take notice of nearby alarms. Seeing the fire detectors and alarms every day can make them easily blur into the background.

It’s similar to flight attendants reciting the same spiel about emergency exits, life jackets, blowing in the red tube to inflate and using a seat as a flotation device before flying. I could probably stand up and give the speech myself because I’ve heard it so many times, but in the event of a water evacuation, I may forget how to inflate my vest.

Simple fire safety procedures are just as forgettable, but in this instance, there’s not a flight attendant giving assistance or directions.

Be smart while cooking and freshen up on fire safety because carelessness can cause flames. It also instantly ruins a good meal.