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Fire Drills at St. Mary’s College of Maryland
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By Vice President / Lieutenant Scot Best
September 22, 2023

Near the beginning of each new semester, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) requests Ridge VFD to perform fire drills in the student residence halls. Last evening, Ridge VFD firefighters conducted fire drills in four halls on campus. The drills were pre-planned with SMCM Public Safety, campus staff, and the residence hall resident advisors (RAs). The students were not told about the date or time of the drills. The drills were conducted at unexpected times and were initiated by activating the fire alarm system. The goal was to share awareness of the risks of college dorm fires, how to evacuate during a drill/fire, and accountability with their RAs.

In the event of a residence hall fire, students are instructed to always evacuate the building promptly via the nearest clear exit and to remain in the designated area outside the building until they are given the word to re-enter. Staff and residents are aware of manual fire alarm box locations within the residence halls. Once outside the building, the fire should be reported by dialing 9-1-1. These fire drills help reinforce what the students learned during orientation.

For the drills, in each residence hall, RVFD personnel met with SMCM Public Safety, staff, and the RAs to discuss the plan. A Public Safety Officer pulled the alarm and the drill began. Firefighters broke into groups to help the RAs conduct room-by-room searches for students. Once all the students were clear of the building and in the designated safety muster areas, they were debriefed on the drill’s successes and/or failures.

RVFD’s LT Rob Dodge spoke to each group of students following the drills. He stressed the importance of always obeying the fire alarms, the RAs, and emergency personnel. Student were also reminded that when they hear a fire alarm, they should:

• Stay calm and immediately evacuate the building via the shortest and safest route.
• Report the fire to the nearest available RA.
• Go to the pre-assigned exterior area, or a safe area, of the building and stay there.
• Report to the RA who is taking roll (personal accountability).
• Await emergency response personnel at the safe location. Watch for incoming emergency apparatus and personnel. Stay clear of the areas surrounding the building as fire apparatus will stage there. There will be several firefighters in turn-out gear, with reduced hearing and visibility; stay to the left or right of the hall when evacuating, leaving the center for firefighters.
• Contact an RA and/or emergency personnel outside the building if they suspect that someone is missing or trapped.
• Follow directions of fire and police personnel and the housing staff.
• Do not reenter the building until instructed to do so.

Overall, the fire drills were successful. The buildings were cleared rapidly and safely. The students were thankful for the experience and the discussions with RVFD personnel.

Units: E41, Squad 4

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Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.
13820 Point Lookout Road
P.O. Box 520
Ridge, MD 20680
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Non-Emergency: 301-872-5571
E-mail: info@ridgevfd.org
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