Fire safety emphasized for Greeks

Three fatalities at a Mississippi fraternity spurred inspections.
Sunday, August 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:06 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fraternity and sorority houses at MU have until Oct. 1 to schedule and pass fire-safety inspections conducted by the Columbia Fire Department, according to Kerry Fleming, Greek Life coordinator.

A fire at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at the University of Mississippi early Friday left three of its members dead, tragically reminding college students across the country of the importance of fire prevention.

“In past years, inspections were required by the end of the year,” Fleming said.

“We’d like to get it done early this year so we can ensure students’ safety all year,” said Debbie Sorrell, assistant fire marshal of the Columbia Fire Department.

“We check for the proper number of fire extinguishers, proper maintenance of fire extinguishers, as well as testing the fire alarms and hood systems in the kitchens,” Sorrell said. She also said inspection involves a walk-through examination of every room of each Greek house.

When violations are discovered, inspectors explain the importance of compliance and why failure to meet safety standards is dangerous.

“The majority is just education and talking to them,” Sorrell said, adding that most fraternities and sororities are cooperative.

Fire safety involves more than inspections. Another measure involves Sorrell showing students a video on fire prevention and safety, which features a fatal fire at an MU fraternity house in 1999, then discussing it with them.

“It’s shown at resident life training,” Sorrell said. “The majority of MU, Stephens and Columbia College students have seen it.”

The fire department also sells copies of the video upon request. Proceeds from sales are used to finance the movie’s continued production.

The video, titled “Dominic’s Story,” can be ordered by faxing the fire department a short letter requesting a copy. It costs $10 per copy. The department’s fax number is 874-7446.

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