Aug. 23, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Julia May
When Sam Houston State University students return to Huntsville, they will see reminders not only on campus but throughout the community as well to be aware of their surroundings in case of an emergency such as a fire.
According to the Texas Department of Insurance, Americans overestimate the amount of time they might have to escape from a fire, and in places where crowds tend to gather, a situation can turn deadly in a matter of seconds.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office has received funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters, Fire Prevention and Safety Grant to educate Texas university students about fire safety, escape planning and life saving.
With the funding, the SFMO has expanded its existing “Have an Exit Strategy” program to all public universities in the state.
“The initiative is a self-awareness and self-responsibility program directed to students, staff and visitors of Texas universities,” said Mark Shiflet, SHSU environmental, health and safety coordinator.
“It’s designed to introduce and reinforce the message ‘Be aware or your surroundings and placement of exits where you live, work and play,’” he said.
The statewide program was implemented after studying a 2003 fire at a nightclub in Rhode Island, in which 100 patrons died. More than two-thirds of the 400-plus attendees started toward the main entrance that night. In the panic, some fell, causing others to fall. In less than 90 seconds the front door was blocked.
In 2004, the Texas Department of Insurance conducted a random inspection of bars, nightclubs, lounges and dancehalls in eight Texas counties and found that 182 of the 189 establishments they visited had exit violations.
In 2006, the “Have an Exit Strategy” program was unveiled at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Sometimes, the best way out may not be the one you came in,” said Shiflet. “The entrance door is going to be the one everyone goes to if an emergency situation occurs, because it’s the one exit everyone knows.
“That’s why you should look around and find exit options when you enter a place you are not familiar with,” he said.
Shiflet will be working with SHSU’s Department of Residence Life by training residence advisors, placing posters in all of the residence halls and informational tags on all doors, and placing flyers, magnets and buttons on every bed on campus.
He will also meet with representatives of the Greek organizations to ensure that off-campus fraternity houses are aware of the campaign and with the Athletics Department to promote the campaign at sporting events.
“We will be at the Sammypalooza event to distribute information and answer questions and will visit with local establishments to promote the campaign,” Shiflet said. “We are going to get the message out at any location our students are likely to be.”
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