Fire safety - will you be ready?
Did you know there are approximately 1,500 fire extinguishers at the Health Science Center? Or that the two newest university buildings in the Texas Research Park are completely equipped with indoor sprinklers in case of fire?
These and other procedures and equipment make the university a model of fire safety precautions among large institutions. If Michael Charlton, director of institutional safety, has his way, things will get even better. Celebrating his one-year anniversary at the Health Science Center after coming from the U. T. Health Science Center at Houston, Charlton has instituted several new procedures and has more in mind for the near future.
For example, this academic year, the university created a faculty advisory committee monitoring fire and life safety activities. "The physical safety committee should be commended for their proactive initiatives during the last nine months," Charlton said. This diverse committee includes faculty with an interest in the physical agents present on campus.
"The physical safety committee recently approved emergency response reference cards that employees will be able to attach to the same clip as their Health Science Center ID badge," he said. "The cards remind us of what to do in the event of a fire emergency, hazardous material spills, medical emergencies and needlestick injuries."
At present, university employees experience a fire drill in their area once a year and certain employees are designated as emergency evacuation coordinators. "We are instituting annual training for evacuation coordinators to keep them up to date," Charlton said.
In other fire-related training, employees will now have emergency response reminders in their general compliance training, laboratories will hear about fire safety during lab evaluations, and fire extinguisher awareness training or other safety training is available to all employees upon request.
"As a general rule, we advise people not to use fire extinguishers unless it is necessary to safely exit the building," Charlton said. "Fires in the research environment can be extremely dangerous. Generally, the best thing to do is to exit the area and let trained and equipped professionals extinguish fires."
Charlton said that one of the most effective fire safety initiatives is the Health Science Center's no-smoking on university property policy. "Historically, 20 percent of fires in the occupational environment have been related to workplace smoking," he said. "Now there are fewer chances here for fires to start from cigarettes and other open flames."
Charlton encourages employees with safety questions to contact institutional safety at ext. 7-2955. "If you see something that you believe may be potentially hazardous, we're only a phone call away," he said.