Dorms Stage Evacuation Drill
April 19, 2007 8:36 AM
Days after the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, an evacuation drill took place Thursday afternoon in which all five dormitories at SF State were cleared.
It began around 2 p.m. when alarms sounded around Mary Park and Mary Ward Halls, The Towers, Village at Centennial Square, and the Science and Technology Community buildings. Most of the approximately 2,200 residents who were in or around the buildings were ordered to leave the area and proceed to a meeting point across Font Boulevard near the softball field.
Several fire engines arrived in the area about three minutes after the first alarms sounded, and officers briefly stopped traffic on Font to allow residents to cross over to the meeting area.
“We’ve never practiced a drill like this before,” said David Rourke, associate director of residential life at SF State. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
“We have had several false fire alarms, and people don’t know if it’s real or not,” Rourke said. “It’s sticky.”
Rourke said that previous drills focused on evacuating individual buildings, as opposed to the mass evacuation that took place this time. This was also the first time residents were asked to congregate across the street.
In light of the incident at Virginia Tech, on-campus residents received advance notice of the drill Tuesday night via e-mail so as not to “invoke an undue sense of panic,” Rourke said.
For the most part, residents took the drill in stride, even though a few expressed confusion over the organization of the meeting place. Some brought their Ipods and classwork to the meeting area. A couple of men played guitars.
Jean Washburn, a 19 year-old creative writing major living in The Village, worked on her knitting as she waited with other residents to check in with their Resident Assistant. Though she was able to figure out where to go, Washburn wasn’t satisfied with the execution of the drill.
“Why didn’t they do this at the beginning before we’re all settled in?” Washburn said.
Rebecca Palmer, a 19 year-old Psychology major living at Mary Ward Hall, said she was satisfied with some aspects of the drill, but not all.
“They did a good job of getting us all out,” Palmer said. “But they kind of left us in the dark over how long it’s going to be.”
It took 15 minutes to evacuate all of the residents in the area, and residents were allowed to return 30 minutes after the alarms first sounded.
Though Rourke was pleased with the evacuation time, he still sees some need for improvement.
“I’d like to beat [15 minutes],” Rourke said. “Even five minutes into it, people were still walking out of the buildings. That’s not okay.”
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