BY CARSON DESHEVY-RENOUF
Conestoga College – being an establishment as large and constantly growing as it is – has many working parts; many systems and programs that ensure everything runs smoothly no matter what happens. One of the most important programs within the college is the fire safety program.
Susete Araujo-Vizinho, a Security Services staff member, is responsible for the fire safety program within the school. She oversees the testing of the fire alarms and speakers that occurs each month. She is also responsible for the fire drills and monitoring the fire warden program – a part of the fire safety program that involves volunteer faculty action during a fire.
Each year the college performs two fire drills, one in late September or early October depending on weather, and one in April. These drills ensure that students and faculty can safely and quickly evacuate the school in the event of an actual fire. According to Araujo-Vizinho, the most recent drills saw full evacuations in three minutes, a minute faster than previous drills.
Special precautions are taken during evacuations for those with disabilities. There are assigned “safe zones” on each floor that those with disabilities can go to in the event of a fire or fire drill. There are cameras monitoring the safe zones and phones within them so that it can be easily determined if anyone is occupying them.
Alongside the precautions taken for people with disabilities, there are also measures taken to ensure that no one is left behind. As part of the fire warden program, faculty around the school have volunteered to don fire protective gear and sweep assigned sectors for anyone who either can’t evacuate, or refuses to in the event of a fire. Once fire wardens complete the task of sweeping their area, they report to the chief fire warden, another volunteer, who gathers all the information and passes it on to Security Services and the fire department.
Fire safety is taken seriously and anyone caught pulling a fire alarm as a prank will face a disciplinary hearing with the vice-president of student affairs. On top of that, the local fire departments could get involved because they respond to fire alarms coming from the college.
As the school is undergoing development, so are the safety programs. Conestoga has been involving the fire departments in the area to help evaluate the quality of the college’s fire safety programs. They have been brought in to find flaws and suggest any improvements that could be made to the current systems in place.
“We are always looking to improve, it is an ongoing program that is constantly changing,” Araujo-Vizinho said.