LEXINGTON: 17 Sept - Theatrical smoke will roll through the corridors of Ingels Hall tonight in a drill meant to simulate a real fire.
UK fire marshals say the unannounced twist on a fire drill helps prepare students, staff and the fire department for an emergency.
But some national and local experts question whether the practice could create an emergency instead."I would be concerned because when you're in a dorm situation you have different languages, disabilities, health issues and lots of different people coming in and out," said Ken Farmer, branch chief of prevention and leadership for the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"Not everyone will understand it's a drill. What if a student went through the smoke and hit something?"Sherry Kenyon, secretary and treasurer of the national Center for Campus Fire Safety and fire safety educator for the fire department in Boulder, Colo., said she uses smoke to train resident advisers at the University of Colorado, but they know about it before the drills.
"You have to be really clear on the learning objective in such a drill," Kenyon said. "I'm afraid that creating a fire situation that people don't know about beforehand might send mixed messages. I don't believe in scaring people. No one likes to be taught by being tricked." ...
...The first drill, at Keeneland Hall on Sept. 10, offered some learning opportunities, [UK Assistant Fire Marshal Greg] Williamson said."One young lady said there was no other way for her to get out when we questioned her as to why she came through the smoke," he said. "There are three other stairwells she could have exited from."In all, 12 students came through the smoke instead of finding an alternative exit, he said. ...
...Stu Silberman, superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools, had similar sentiments and said he would not use smoke in school fire drills.
"I think that, at least in my opinion, you don't want kids thinking you are crying wolf," he said.
"You just run your drills with the idea you're preparing for the real thing. In my 34 years of experience, I've found that if the teachers and staff take it seriously, then the students will too."
[Maj. Mike ] Bossert, of the Lexington Fire Department, doesn't think the smoke should affect students' reactions.
"There is no issue with us crying wolf because if everyone is doing what they're supposed to be, then everyone would be evacuating during a drill," he said.
Tiffani Prichard, a psychology junior and RA at Keeneland Hall, said the Sept. 10 drill caused some panic and that some of her residents were in tears.
Daniel Root, a linguistics sophomore and RA at Keeneland, said the explanation after the drill calmed people down.
"I think that if they didn't explain the smoke it would have been a bad idea," Root said, "but after the drill the fire marshals had a debriefing outside that explained everything."
This from the Kentucky Kernel.