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Seton Hall Fire
On January 19, 2000, a fire broke out in the lounge of Seton Hall University situated in South Orange, New Jersey. The fire killed three students, injured fifty-eight people (including firefighters), and forced the majority of Hall’s residence out of the building to save themselves. It started on the third floor where false fire alarms were frequent; therefore, students at firsts did not take the alarm that began ringing seriously (Barry par. 4).
After conducting an in-depth investigation, two residents of Seton Hall were charged and convicted of arson. The charged Joseph LePore and Sean Ryan were high school buddies and joined the university together in 1999. However, in the aftermath of the fire, their names floated around the campus because some witnesses had seen them committing the crime (Hanley par. 5).
According to the expertise conducted by experts sit months after the fatal tragedy, it was found that the fire, which started in the lounge could be easily eliminated with the use of automatic sprinklers that were not available at the time of the fire. Upon visiting the campus, Governor Whitman signed a bill that required the installation of automatic sprinklers in all educational facilities, including sorority and fraternity residences (Moroz par. 4).
The University applied for state funding to afford to pay for the automatic sprinklers to make sure that similar situations like the January 2000 fire never happen again. The law requiring the installation of automatic sprinklers in all educational facilities was proven to be very consolidating to students’ parents since the tragedy in Seton Hall caught the nation’s attention. Nowadays, Seton Hall follows strict guidelines and rules regarding fire safety due to the lack of appropriate fire elimination strategies at the time of the fire.
Despite the range of fire safety strategies implemented by the authorities in Seton Hall, the University remained subject to criticism because of the lack of attention to safety techniques, which did not prevent the fire from starting. For example, Sean Ryan’s attorney, Michael Bubb, criticized the University for the malfunctioning system of fire alarms, no available fire extinguishing hoses and sprinklers, as well as furniture that was too flammable and gave off toxic fumes. Also, smoking was a regular practice on campus, and everyone was used to false fire alarms.
Southern Adventist University Fire
On April 25, 2005, a 20-year-old female student, Kelly Weimer, was killed in the fire in a women’s residence hall at Southern Adventist University while two other students were sent to a hospital. According to the written statement released by the university authorities, the fire started on the third floor of the women’s dormitory near the kitchen area. Luckily, the fire did not spread to any of the dorm rooms (Staff par. 5). Firefighters evacuated more than five hundred students and used a ladder to rescue two students from the top floor of the building.
According to the investigation conducted by Bob Pollard, assistant director of the Tennessee fire marshal’s office, the fire was accidental, so there was no one to be held responsible apart from the university authorities. Furthermore, it remained unknown why Kelly Weimer supposedly moved toward the fire when she should have moved in the opposite direction to save herself from the fire (Rozas par. 4).
University authorities stated that they had regularly held fire safety drills at the beginning of every semester so that all students were aware of the appropriate steps in cases of fire on campus. Thatcher Hall, a building where the fire started, was built in 1968 and was compliant with fire codes and strategies established by the state for buildings that age (Staff par. 10). The dorm building was equipped with a range of appropriate fire extinguishing systems, smoke detectors, and fire alarms.
In the course of the investigation, it was stated that the fire alarm did go off once the fire had started so that students managed to safely leave the building. Additionally, the spreading of the fire was limited by the building’s durability.
As mentioned by Mr. Pollard from the Tennessee fire marshal’s office, the availability of a sprinkler system would not have prevented the loss of the student during the fire. Sprinklers usually activate after smoke alarms go off and when the temperature is far over two hundred degrees (“Fire Ruled Accidental in Which Southern Adventist Student Died” par. 10). Every fire safety system in the University worked perfectly so that residents had enough time to leave the building.
Unfortunately, the only unknown aspect of the fire remains unsolved – fire investigators could not determine why Ms. Weimer had not joined the rest of the residents that had been evacuating and moved in the opposite direction. In the aftermath of the fire, the University continued to implement the effective fire prevention and management strategies that it was praised for.
The case of fire in Southern Adventist University is significantly different from the one in Seton Hall. While the Seton Hall fire was arson, the fire in Southern Adventist University was an accident. Furthermore, there is a major difference in the way universities were equipped with fire safety systems – fire alarms at Seton Hall did not function adequately while Southern Adventist University was praised for its readiness to fire emergencies. Lastly, automatic water sprinklers could potentially manage the fire in Seton Hall, which cannot be stated about the fire at Southern Adventist University.
The reviewed fires could potentially happen at Northeastern University since their nature is quite widespread. For example, the fire in Seton Hall had been a case of arson for which two individuals were charged and convicted. Such cases of arson can rarely be predicted, so Northeastern University authorities should be aware of the possibility and implement a range of effective strategies to avoid it. The case of fire at Southern Adventist University showed that even with some fire safety techniques, accidents that no one has any explanations for could happen.
To avoid arson or fire on campus, students at Northeastern University should be strictly monitored for possessing any dangerous and flammable objects or substances that can potentially cause a fire. By surveilling dorm corridors through cameras as well as sometimes checking rooms for dangerous substances, the authorities will be able to reduce the risk of fires.
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Furthermore, holding fire safety drills, as in the example of Southern Adventist University, can become a regular fire safety practice. Students’ actions in cases of fire can also impact the outcome of the accident, as seen from the example of Southern Adventist University. However, Seton Hall residents ignored fire alarms for some time because they were used to false emergencies that had happened quite regularly on campus.
Barry, Dan. 3 Killed in Fire at Seton Hall; Dozens of Students Are Hurt. 2000. Web.
Hanley, Robert. Few Surprised by Story of High School Friends. 2003. Web.
Moroz, Jennifer. Whitman Signs Law to Order Sprinklers After a Fatal Fire at Seton Hall, the State Will Require That School Dormitories Be Outfitted with Automatic Systems. 2000. Web.
Rozas, Angela. Dorm Fire Kills Student. 2005. Web.
Staff, Ann. United States: Fire at Southern Adventist University Claims one Student, Injures Two Others. 2005. Web.