MU installs hand sanitizer dispensers to combat H1N1's spread

Friday, September 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:46 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 15, 2009

COLUMBIA — In response to the spreading H1N1 virus, MU installed hundreds of hand sanitizer dispensers in educational buildings and common areas this week.

Dispensers were installed last spring in dining and residence halls, but Campus Facilities ordered an additional 700 this week for other areas around MU. The cost of the additional hand sanitizers was $8,500.

As of Thursday, MU officials had installed most of the sanitizer, which is alcohol-based and highly flammable, but had not conducted any official checks to make sure the dispensers met International Fire Code standards. Campus Facilities received approval of plans from Columbia Fire Department Lt. Shawn McCollom and Peter Ashbrook, MU's environmental and health safety director.

"I gave them directions for the installation," said McCollom, a liaison to the university. "It's a remote possibility that they could be a fire hazard and be a potential, additional fuel for a fire already occurring."

Campus Facilities spokeswoman Karlan Seville said maintenance workers are aware of the regulations.

International Fire Code regulations require:

  • a minimum separation of 48 inches between two dispensers
  • a maximum capacity of 68 ounces per dispenser
  • that they must not be installed adjacent to, above or below electric receptacles, switches or appliances
  • that they must be installed between 42 and 48 inches above the floor

Seville said it would be a quick fix if there were a mistake.

"We have people on call 24 hours a day, so if for some reason there was a human error, it would be remedied immediately," she said.

McCollom said he is not aware of any formal checkup process.

"For the most part, (Campus Facilities) is kind of on their own," McCollom said. "I'm in and out of these buildings every day, so I'll see them eventually. I have no doubt they will follow this advice correctly."

Meanwhile, the Student Health Center has received more calls and visits from people with flulike symptoms. On Tuesday, the health center added extra personnel to answer phone calls. It had been working with four main operators and three nurses who were routed all calls dealing with flu symptoms.

"I think they're extremely busy," MU spokesman Christian Basi said. "But they are handling the phone calls as they come in."

Basi said he couldn't determine an accurate number of students calling or visiting with flulike symptoms, partly because some students are diagnosing themselves or going home without consulting the Student Health Center.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


jay benson September 12, 2009 | 4:35 p.m.

"Its a remote possiblity..."?? Some universities actually employ staff members that graduated college--and have conducted no more than 5 minutes of research to appreciate that many health care officials are now recommending NON-ALCOHOL hand sanitizers. These schools (Univ of Michigan, Washington University, University of Arkansas to name just 3 of tens of dozens) are procuring products that use the organic compound benzalkonium chloride as the active..simply because its equally effective, long lasting, non-flammable and non-toxic and non-irritating to the skin..
good insight at

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.