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Duke, Durham Officials Drill Fire Safety Into Students' Heads

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DURHAM — On many college campuses, fire alarms going off in the middle of the night are just a part of dorm life. The false alarms happen so often, many students ignore them. But Durham officials are trying to drill fire safety into students' heads.

A dorm fire on the Seton Hall campus in January killed three students and injured dozens of others. Students living in UNC's Morrison dorm have lived through at least five fires this year, and Tuesday night a fire broke out in an elevator at a St. Augustine's dorm.

This potentially deadly trend on college campuses has Duke officials, along with the Durham Fire Department, pulling alarms themselves as a way to teach students a lesson.

"The students become complacent, 'Oh that's the fire alarm again.' So we just want to urge them not to take it complacent, take them seriously, and take 'em every time, because you never know when that one's the real one," says firefighter Edward Reid.

Fire alarms were screeching in three Duke dorms Thursday, but some say these spot drills only make things worse.

"Ideally it's a good idea, but they go off so much accidentally that people don't respond to them anymore. Like if you'll notice, just look at how many people are out in the the quad, it's not even representative of the people that live in the quad," one student says.

Sam Malone's roommate was one of those students who stayed behind.

"I told him. He said fine, but he didn't come out," Malone says.

After the drills, firefighters talk with students about safety.

Duke students can face penalties ranging from academic suspension to losing their housing if they do not exit a dorm when the alarms ring.

The Durham Fire Department hopes to conduct drills at every dorm in the city -- including those on NC Central and North Carolina School of Math and Science campuses -- by the end of the year.


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