Fire in the House: Rectifying our Fire Safety Policies
story Annie Wang, Staff Writer
Within its first semester on the new campus, Yale-NUS College has seen a total of 19 hours of campus-wide fire alarm testing. There have also been four evacuation exercises, of which one was a planned fire drill, and the other three were caused by false alarms.
The testing and evacuations were part of a process of rectification and improvement to identify the issues in the existing fire alarm system and procedures. After the drill, students and resident faculty were asked to submit specific feedback, such as gates or doors that didn’t open, or locations where they were unable to hear the fire announcement clearly.
The feedback collected from the fire drill was “primarily about the volume of the PA [public announcement] system in different areas,” Radha Pebbisetty, Senior Safety and Health Manager, said. She said that these volumes have since been recalibrated. The College has now taken over the fire alarm system from the contractors.
Daniel Ng ’18 said in an interview that he had observed other issues such as the lack of urgency among students and staff involved in the evacuation, and the lack of a proper accounting system to check attendance. He said that he had raised these issues on past occasions to many senior administrators, but had not received any meaningful follow-up.
Parag Bhatnagar ’17 also expressed concern that too many false alarms and fire drills may reduce their effectiveness. “The more frequently you have the drills, the more people become desensitized to the severity of the issue,” Bhatnagar said.
Future plans for rectification and testing include another night drill before the end of term, as well as a fire safety requirement check and day drill conducted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force next semester, according to the Safety and Infrastructure team.
“We need everyone’s help to build a safety culture in the College for everyone’s benefit. All of us need to be aware of basic safety procedures and plan ahead to incorporate safety measures into our activities and events,” the Safety and Infrastructure team said in an email interview.
The team added that students with comments and recommendations on fire safety policies could write directly to Radha at firstname.lastname@example.org, or speak to their Deans Fellows, Rectors or Vice-Rectors.