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Source: University of Toronto

U of T promotes Fire Prevention Week

October 10, 2006

Fire safety and
awareness to be promoted Oct. 8 to 14, 2006
Oct 10/06
by Mary Alice Thring (about) (email)

The University of Torontoís Fire Prevention Service (FPS) has joined with
Toronto Fire Services, the provincial office of the fire marshal, the
National Fire Protection Association and fire departments across North
America to promote fire safety and awareness during fire prevention week,
Oct. 8 to 14, 2006.

This yearís theme is Prevent Cooking Fires -- Watch What You Heat and itís
appropriate to U of T, according to Ron Lewis, manager of FPS. Lewis said
the No. 1 cause of fire alarms in residences is unattended cooking, with
microwave popcorn and pizza as the primary culprits.

FPS will have a booth set up at a number of buildings during the week,
including Medical Sciences Building (Tuesday), Sidney Smith Hall (Wednesday)
and Leslie Dan Pharmacy Building (Thursday), to promote fire safety.

"For us, itís not just a week, it's ongoing," Lewis said. Lewis leads a team
of four fire safety officers and two sprinkler technicians to ensure safety
on the St. George campus. Together, the safety officers have more than 60
years of experience in fire prevention at U of T. They work collaboratively
with Toronto Fire Service, most visibly in recent weeks as fire drills were
held in various buildings across campus.

"We do the drills before fire safety week so we can minimize lost class
time," said Steve Arnold, senior fire prevention officer. "When we do the
drills we donít want to disrupt major events but we do need the buildings

During a recent drill of Convocation Hall and Simcoe Hall, the president and
the senior administration were out on the sidewalk but surprisingly, some
students are more reluctant to leave.

"In the drills weíre seeing people not getting out," said Lewis, pointing
out that it is university policy that buildings must be completely
evacuated. "People donít want to leave their computers or they say there
wasnít an announcement. We shouldnít have to tell you to get out -- a fire
alarm is a fire alarm. For your own and everyoneís safety, leave the

The fire prevention office was established after the 1977 fire that gutted
the Sanford Fleming Building. Over the course of the next year, city of
Toronto fire inspectors looked at every building on campus and came up with
recommendations and requirements for fire safety. U of T instituted a
long-term plan for voluntary upgrades of fire alarm systems, exits and
emergency lighting. Since then, thanks to the fire prevention office, design
guidelines that exceed minimum requirements are now in place for U of T

U of T Fire Prevention Services has worked with Accessibility Services and
developed protocols for evacuation of people in wheelchairs and has issued
vibrating pagers for the hearing impaired that will alert them when a fire
alarm is sounded.

"If all we did was push the code book around, this would be a pretty boring
job," Arnold said. Instead, given the diversity of properties on campus,
Arnold and Lewis have worked as advocates at the national and provincial
levels to help get changes to building codes and fire safety standards.

The fire prevention office also does cross-training work with Toronto Fire
Service. In addition to giving them familiarization tours of U of T
buildings and access to the diversity of properties on campus, it is an
ideal training opportunity for fire inspectors.

"Itís good for us and helpful for them," said Lewis. "When it comes to first
response, especially after hours, itís us and the campus police. We know our
facilities and buildings."

Arnold added, "Everyone in the department feels ownership of this place.
These are our buildings and our people. Itís a 24 hour a day



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