Simulated Fire in Residence Hall Tests, Enhances Emergency Procedures

Simulated Fire in Residence Hall Tests, Enhances Emergency Procedures
Firefighters tend to simulated burn victims during a fire drill in Aliso Hall on Aug. 18.

Bethany Anderson, a volunteer student who pretended to fall asleep with a candle burning in her room, is carried away by firefighters after “jumping” from her third-story window in Aliso Hall.

A student in a three-story residence hall falls asleep with a candle burning. The candle sets fire to the window coverings, bedding and other flammable items. Awakened by the smoke detector, the student runs out of her room and into the hallway, leaving the door open. Within minutes, the fire has engulfed the building and, while some students have escaped unharmed, others are badly injured or trapped in their rooms.

It?s a scenario the university and local fire engine company hope to never encounter, but staged in order to prepare for the disaster.

The simulated fire in Aliso Hall on Monday, Aug. 18, at 10 a.m. was part of an emergency preparedness exercise intended to ensure that the university?s emergency procedures are up-to-date and accurate.

Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD) Battalion 19 (Pomona/Walnut) responded to the call with six engine companies, two paramedic units, a battalion chief, a utility vehicle and two ambulances from MEDIC-1.
In charge of the rescue operation was Emergency Services Coordinator Debbi McFall, who worked closely with LACFD officials to plan the event.

“This year, there have been so many senseless injuries and deaths in residence hall fires across the country,” says McFall. “We exercise our evacuation procedures as often as possible to be sure our staff is well equipped and prepared to evacuate the residents in an emergency.

Smoke pours out the windows of Aliso Hall as firefighters attempt to rescue victims during a fire drill meant to test the university's emergency procedures.

Bryan Decker, who has been “trapped” in his room by the fire, yells for help from his window to firefighters down below.

“Plus, this exercise acquaints every engine company in our battalion with the campus, the residence halls and our emergency plan, which enhances actual emergency response,” she says.

As part of the exercise, the fire department used a machine to fill the building?s hallways, which were empty during the summer, with smoke. Students, who volunteered to participate in the drill, scrambled to escape, including one student who “jumped” from a third-floor window. With the assistance of theater student Kelly Norris, a number of volunteers were fitted with makeup and prosthetics to provide the realistic appearance of minor and life-threatening injuries. The student who jumped from the third-story window “suffered” a compound fracture to her leg; another victim had shards of glass stuck in her arm; others suffered cuts and burns.

Once the victims were evacuated from the building, fire personnel established an outside trauma center to treat their “injuries.”

Bethany Anderson, a senior liberal studies major, volunteered to participate as a victim in this exercise because, as a community adviser at the University Village, she thought it was important to be prepared to handle an emergency.

“There are 13 community advisers for 800 students, and it?s important for us to be able to respond appropriately during a disaster,” she says. “If we didn?t have these drills, I think a lot more people would panic during this type of situation.”

Everyone involved in the emergency exercises learn so much, says McFall.

“These drills enable us to try things to see if they will work before we are facing a real emergency situation,” she says. “This practice is all about saving lives.”