From: Margaret Rakas <mrakas**At_Symbol_Here**SMITH.EDU>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] fire drill and emergency gas shut-off valves
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:47:00 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: CAAszpkw9k65qsk6P2TXYRikA6+ZFL93md72RpKaHRSvf+s4Rgw**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <756887D4-0DEF-4884-9F42-0D2296CF68AF**At_Symbol_Here**>

Having the drills start within the first 1-2 minutes of the first class period of the morning or afternoon has worked very well for us--I would never hold a drill in the middle of a morning or afternoon simply because I don't want a lab class interrupted. We postpone drills if the weather is bad; I check to make sure the drills aren't happening during a really bad time (such as during a field trip to a lab by grade school or high school students), but otherwise the drills are scheduled as I've indicated.

I suggest the person who initially posted to consider if this kind of timing would be of help--our faculty have certainly found the scheduling results in the unannounced fire drills being a small matter--and if so, speak with their fire safety liaison. If you are in an institution with a building where the radiochemistry lab or the organic synthesis researchers or the BSL3 lab might be impacted by an unannounced drill, then let those PI's know--but there's no need to tell everyone, because most people, including researchers, can leave for a few minutes without a problem. There are likely enough modifications many institutions can make so that an unannounced drill can work for the vast majority of the building occupants.

We have had several small fires--one in/during a teaching lab-- and a bomb threat in the 14 years I have been here. None of these were scheduled at convenient times; all interrupted important activities because of required evacuations. We came through with no problems, because our faculty and staff had thought through what to do in these cases, and trained their students, often by situational role playing. It is really important to have students understand what to do in the case of an interruption, and important to have faculty and staff think about these possibilities ahead of time to map out an appropriate response. We're not perfect but we do try to incorporate 'lessons learned'...

On Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 12:23 PM, ILPI Support <info**At_Symbol_Here**> wrote:
As a former academic, I agree with John's comment. In a teaching laboratory, you can indeed lose the entire work period, especially if it comes during the middle of the lab session. In addition to the logistics of the day, it can throw off your entire semester's lab schedule with subsequent repercussions on problem sets and even exams.

In a research laboratory, the potential impact is much more serious. A researcher may be in the middle of an experiment which requires critical temperature control and involves a starting material that took weeks and/or thousands of dollars to make. A fire drill that occurs in such a situation is going to result in one really PO'ed PI and teach the researcher to ignore all future fire alarms. Neither of these is a desired outcome.

While it's clear that the surprise element of fire drills is important to their efficacy, completely unannounced fire drills are not something that should be performed in laboratory settings. All PI's and faculty need to be informed ahead of time (1-2 days minimum) so they can schedule accordingly. And if the drill must be done during the day, make sure it is held at the beginning of a class period. Of course, you will need to emphasize that everyone must *respond* to the drill as if it's a real fire, and that includes full evacuation procedures. Advance warning should not equal a free pass (and there's always that remote chance of a real emergency at the scheduled time); might be worth a written warning that anyone violating the drill procedure will have their lab shut down for a safety hold for a couple days...

Rob Toreki

Safety Emporium - Lab & Safety Supplies featuring brand names
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On Sep 29, 2014, at 11:26 AM, "Nail, John" <jnail**At_Symbol_Here**OKCU.EDU> wrote:

In regards to Margaret Rakas's and Jeff Lewin's comments -

Margaret - "I don't understand concerns over 'losing a day' when drills can be held with students back in the building in roughly 15 minutes or less; ours are usually around 10 minutes (we can evacuate our newest science building in 2 min 32 seconds). "

Comment: If the fire drill occurs in the middle of a chemistry lab, the students' and instructors' first priority should be to make the lab safe - all electrical equipment gets unplugged, all volatile flammables be put in a fume hood or flammables cabinet, etc., BEFORE students can evacuate. This can lead to a loss of a lab day + some chemical waste if the students are unable to reboot their work during that lab period. So, yes, a 15 minute fire drill can result in the loss of a lab day, particularly bad for a lab that meets 15 times per semester (1X per week).

Yes, I have had conversations with my supervisors about my class being the last one out of the building =E2=80" I also know of a real situation in which people evacuated because of an alarm and returned to find a real fire had started in their absence.

Margaret A. Rakas, Ph.D.
Manager, Inventory & Regulatory Affairs
Clark Science Center
413-585-3877 (p)

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