Among the many responsibilities of maintenance and engineering managers in institutional and commercial facilities, few if any have a higher priority than ensuring the safety of building occupants and visitors. As managers and staffs in many colleges and universities prepare facilities for the return of students, a tragic fire offers a reminder of the heightened need for vigilance when it comes to fire and life safety.
A University of Houston fire marshal is urging parents to check on whether the dorms and apartments where they drop off students are equipped with fire extinguishers and functional smoke detectors and are up to date on their inspections, according to the Houston Chronicle. The advice comes after five people died in a fire at an apartment complex fire near Texas State University.
“I would want to see what kind of inspection records they had from the municipality that they’re in,” says Chris McDonald the university’s fire marshal. “I wanted to make sure their smoke detectors work — that they had working fire extinguishers in their apartment. I want to make sure the employees are trained and they know what to do if there in case there is a fire.”
All but one of the university’s on-campus housing facilities have sprinkler systems, McDonald says. The university does not oversee off-campus housing facilities and could not disclose the fire protocols they might have in place.
The university on-campus complex without sprinklers was built in 1992. The university recently updated its fire alarm system and is planning to install a sprinkler system, says McDonald, adding that on-campus facilities go through annual inspections and that the state fire marshal conducts inspections every three years.
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