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LEADING COMMUNITY RISK REDUCTION - page 17 / 75

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detectors was in place. The report by NFPA (1995) summarized that an automatic

sprinkler system would have controlled the fire in the early stages.

While Grant concurs that smoke detectors and alarms provide some warning, a

response time of three to five minutes by local fire departments is not adequate when a

fire occurs in a confined room of less than 200 square feet. Fire sprinklers, she argues,

are widely recognized as the single most effective method for fighting the spread of fires

in their early stages. According to the NFPA, damage caused by fires is 78 percent less

in sprinkled buildings and no record of a fire killing more than two people exists in

buildings that are completely sprinkled (Grant, 1999).

Mongeau (1999) described the fire safety features of West Campus Residence

Hall built at Northeastern University in 1999. At the time, nearly one-third of 12,000

full-time students resided in on-campus dormitories. According to Jim Ferrier, Associate

Director of Public Safety at Northeastern, the new residence hall maintained the most

comprehensive safety and security systems of any urban campus in America. This

included a full-time public safety division, building safety features, fire detection and

alarms, and an automatic sprinkler system.

Students are required to enter and exit using only the main entrances of the 13-

story facility. Other exits are provided for emergency exit only. Such exits have

electromagnetic locks with alarms. Should a student attempt to use the door during non-

emergency periods, an audible alarm sounds and a delay of 15 seconds occurs before the

lock disengages. This practice ensures corridors are compartmentalized and prevents the

possible spread of potential fire to adjoining areas. However, if a fire alarm is

transmitted, the lock disengages immediately allowing prompt egress.

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