Fire Safety and Emergency Response
There are approximately 7,000 fire extinguishers on campus. All extinguishers must have an annual inspection and maintenance to be code-compliant, which is a daunting task for a single person to handle. Fire Safety utilizes the federal work-study program to aid in this process, typically hiring two inspectors to assist with the fire extinguisher inspections across campus. The program has been updated over the years, and the work study students’ assistance is now heavily relied upon.
In 2018, the Fire Extinguisher Inspector position in the federal work-study program is a finalist for the award of “Most Distinct Job” — a title that most people believe about their job! UNC’s two students nominated the position, stating:
“Fire Extinguisher Inspector is a very unique job on campus that very few know about. Whenever I mention my work study job, people always ask questions. They always want to know what exactly I have to do and where I have to go. Many people don’t even know that people inspect the extinguishers, or it’s something they never thought about someone having to do. We travel all over campus, doing a different section each month. We get to see every aspect of UNC’s beautiful campus, from the medical school to the Dean Dome, to research labs, to the NC Botanical Gardens, to the Rizzo Conference Center, and literally everything in between. The best part is that we get to meet all the different kinds of wonderful people that make UNC functional, and make it awesome!”
Chasity Smith, a federal work-study student who has worked for the department for three years, had this to say about her position:
“When I saw the job title “Fire Extinguisher Inspector,” I immediately knew that this work-study job would be unique. But, what I did not know was how much actually goes into the job, or how much I would enjoy it. I was, and still am, a volunteer on a fire department back home, so inspecting fire extinguishers seemed like something I could somewhat relate to. My first day was a little overwhelming because there was SO much I did not know about fire extinguishers. I thought they were pretty simple, and I knew how to use one, but I did not know how much went into keeping them in use. It isn’t only looking at the gauge to see if it is full. It is also checking for a brand, model, label, date, dents, and dings to make sure that it is still safe to use. It also involves interacting with people all over campus, which means everything from explaining what exactly it is I am doing, to explaining to someone how to actually use an extinguisher. Interacting with people is actually one of my favorite parts of the job. There are so many wonderful people that keep campus running, and without this job, I would have never met nor had the opportunity to appreciate them. I am proud to be one of the people that help keep it functioning. It is a small job that I never realized even existed before applying, but it is most certainly necessary.”
It would be very difficult for the Fire Safety section of EHS to keep fire extinguisher inspections up-to-date without the students’ help. Luckily, this job function can be intriguing to students, which, along with being a finalist for the most distinct job award, will help with the recruitment of new students for future years.
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- Reached students, staff, and visitors at the Off-Campus Housing Fair, Safetober Event, Good Neighbor Initiative, and Lab Safety Fair to teach fire prevention and extinguisher use.
- Performed over 289 fire drills for UNC buildings.
- Provided over 18 hours of training to members of the UNC EHS Emergency Response Team.
- Provided 40 hours of Hazards Control training for new UNC EHS Emergency Response Team members.
- Provided eight hours of hazardous materials response training to other EHS employees to fulfill annual refresher requirements.
- Provided two work-study students an opportunity to learn about fire safety and how to operate fire extinguishers, while freeing staff for other critical responsibilities.
- Provided fire safety coverage to six home football games and 15 home men’s basketball games. Improved collaboration with the Athletics Department for safer events.
- Provided fire safety coverage to a variety of other special events on campus, ranging from performances at Memorial Hall to special events with the Chancellor.
- Inspected 35 dining facilities cooking hoods bi-annually.
- Provided life safety recommendations and monitored the annual Fall Festival for safety issues.
- Participated in pre-plan committee meetings for the Chapel Hill Fire Department.
- Inspected 6,732 fire extinguishers on campus.
- Responded to 38 reports of gas or burning odors in University buildings.
- Installed 14 emergency key boxes (“Knox Boxes”) on the UNC campus and worked with Facilities Services to include at least six additional Knox Boxes on capital construction projects during 2019.
- Investigated a paper shredder fire (Bondurant Hall), a small trashcan fire (Cobb Residence Hall) and a concession stand fire (Kenan Stadium).
- Investigated and documented 267 false fire alarms during calendar year 2018.
- Implemented a program to respond to automatic fire alarms on campus. Through meeting Chapel Hill Fire Department on scene, we can reduce false alarms and gain a better understanding of activations and responses.
- Conducted fire alarm testing on 171 campus buildings.
- Conducted fire safety inspections in 50 campus buildings.