Fires spark debate over campus safety

UPDATE: Around 11 p.m. on Nov. 30, another fire occurred in Oak View Hall. OUPD explained that it was caused from someone overcooking a ready-made meal. Students are encouraged to follow instructions on packages and use their microwaves safely. Pictures of this event can be found at the OUPD Facebook page.

This past month there have been three serious fire emergencies on campus: two in Oak View Hall and one in Hamlin Hall. All three of these emergencies happened within 24 hours of each other.

Jim Zentmeyer, Housing Director at Oakland University, clarified what exactly happened during these three fires.

“The first Oak View incident involved a student trying to microwave a bowl of Hershey’s kisses and created a smoky room, he said. “The second Oak View incident involved a prank alarm pull near the Honors College. The Hamlin incident involved a resident use of fire crackers.”

Zentmeyer also told The Post that the OUPD was investigating the prank alarm and the fire cracker incident.

These incidents, however, have raised concerns over campus safety.

Residence Director in Hamlin Hall Gabriel Dumbrille assured students that Oakland University housing has a safe and efficient system at getting students out of their dorms in case of an emergency, which is all in accordance to the fire marshal’s requests.

“Several of our residence halls are fully sprinkled, Zentmeyer said. “As we continue our plumbing renovations throughout our older residence halls, we have included the installation of fire suppression systems and addressable alarm systems.”

However, the bulk of the problems isn’t on housing. With all three fire emergencies being student-caused, there are different precautions students can take to keep themselves and others safe in the resident halls.

“Do not bring candles or appliances with open elements to campus,” Zentmeyer said. “Familiarize yourself with building emergency exits. Familiarize yourself with fire safety tips (feel a room door for heat before you open it, smoke can kill so stay low to the floor, etc.) — treat every alarm as a real alarm.”

He also explained that students need to know things like prank alarms and fire crackers in the dorms are serious offenses, and could result in severe consequences.

“We can help prevent further issues with Resident Hall programming,” Dumbrille said. “Both passive, as in bulletin boards and fliers, and through active programming, such as having fire marshals and police officers coming in to talk to students.”

“Honestly, the biggest problem isn’t even fires,” Dumbrille said. “The biggest problem we have seems to be people stealing from dorm rooms. The older buildings don’t have doors that automatically lock, and a lot of students won’t lock their rooms.

“With the building of Oak View Hall, we’ve taken measures to prevent theft by making sure the doors lock automatically. In terms of fire, we’ve been trying to upgrade the older dorms with the same all-inclusive sprinkler systems we have in newer buildings.”

To students or faculty concerned about the firetrucks being called during these and other “small” emergencies, OUPD explained that it’s campus policy to call emergency vehicles whenever the alarm goes off.

Students can learn more information on what is and isn’t allowed in their dorm in the online student handbook.