Many students ignore fire safety warnings

by Steve Hoffman | 8/13/93 5:00am

Despite warnings and inspections, many students ignore the College's fire safety regulations and use prohibited electrical equipment in their rooms.

The Office of Residential Life inspects Greek houses once a term to make sure fire safety equipment is operational and that the house is in compliance with College regulations.

Although the College prohibits cooking appliances, extension cords and multiple-plug units without surge protectors and requires that hallways be clear of debris, a spot-check by The Dartmouth yesterday of seven Greek houses revealed open violations in five of the buildings.

Fire safety violations were also found in seven out of 20 dormitory rooms checked yesterday in the Gold Coast and Massachusetts dormitory clusters. Hot pots, microwaves and candles were among the illegal items discovered.

Wednesday's fire at Delta Gamma sorority has prompted many students to re-think the violations in their rooms.

"I have one [prohibited] extension cord," said a brother in Sigma Nu fraternity. "I'll probably change it now."

An electrical appliance plugged into a prohibited extension cord caused the fire, according to Woody Eckels, an ORL administrator. "If it had been plugged into a power strip there is a good chance the fire would not have happened," Eckels said.

Eckels said the College permits power strips and "three-prong, one to one" extension cords.

He also said the Hanover Fire Department recommended that the College ban extension cords and multiple-plug units without surge protectors in Greek houses, but not in residence halls, because of the difficulty of monitoring such a large number of rooms.

According to Fire Captain Mike Clark, the insulation in "thin wire-type extension cords" can break down, causing a short circuit which can produce heat and potentially cause a fire.

Eckels said the College recommends students use power strips with a 15 amp circuit breaker that would shut down when the cord became dangerously hot.

Although extension cords arenow only banned in Greek houses, Eckels said ORL is "beginning to think [the ban] should be extended to residence halls." The spot-check found extension cords in 10 rooms.

During the fire inspections conducted every term, Eckels said ORL searches every room in a house and levys a $100 fine for each illegal extension cord.

He added that ORL will reduce the fine to $50 if the student turns in the illegal cord and presents proof of purchasing a surge protector.

On average, Eckels said the inspectors find approximately 25 violations each term.

"The idea is to make improvements and get students to learn what the problem is," Eckels said. "The idea is not to make money, it's more of an educational tool." He said the money collected from fines helps pay for the yearly CFSC banquet.

For many houses, the fines serve as an incentive to make sure their house is in compliance with the College's regulations.

"The fines work," said Erik Knuppel '95, house manager for Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity. He added that his house worked hard to pass its fire inspection.

"We took it seriously because the College took it seriously," said Jen Chapman '95, house manager for Delta Delta Delta sorority. "We made everybody go out and get the right kind of equipment."

Chapman added that she believes DG's fire will force students to take the regulations more seriously. "People actually realize, 'maybe they have a point,' " she said.

But there are other students who re-arrange their rooms and hide their illegal appliances to pass the inspection and then return the room to its illegal state.

"I got rid of all my multiple plugs and extension cords for the inspection," said a brother in Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity who asked to remain anonymous. "I then re-assembled the whole thing."

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