Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

On Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 in 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned roughly an area of four miles long and three-fourths of a mile wide. It destroyed roughly 34 blocks of Chicago, and out of the 300,000 residents of Chicago at the time, roughly 90,000 were left homeless. In 1925, the week containing Oct. 8 and 9 was designated as Fire Prevention Week to remember those in the Great Chicago Fire and to raise awareness of the dangers of fire.

Here at West Chester University, the fire safety department raises awareness over the campus as well.

Each year, the National Fire Protection Association picks a theme for that year’s Fire Prevention Week.

This year, it is “Practice your escape plan,” which Fire Safety Specialist Dan Kerrigan believes is an excellent theme for WCU.

“It is a really good one for [West Chester University] because we’re very concerned with making sure people get out of buildings and residence halls when there is a problem,” Kerrigan said. “[Fire Prevention Week] is really a heightened promotion of something you should be paying attention to on a regular basis.”

The fire safety department of WCU holds fire drills on a monthly basis in all of the residence halls, including South Campus. All residence halls have to hold fire drills during all three shifts – daytime, evening and overnight.

In addition, all of the academic and office buildings must do them as well. All Resident Assistants are trained in fire safety.

As for alerting the students of a fire, there are two smoke alarm systems in all residence halls. The first one is the actual alarm that goes off when it identifies smoke in the air. The second one is the sprinkler that only goes off if the core begins to get hot or if somebody knocks into it. The sprinkler is known to release approximately 30 gallons of water per minute.

Any student should remember that when using the dorm’s kitchen or the kitchen in their off-campus housing, pay attention to what is being cooked.

Also, roll up sleeves when cooking because it does not take much for fabric to get caught in the flame and catch fire.

Off-campus residents should remember their personalized safety tips as well.

For example, if one decides to use a space heater, remember to keep it away from fabrics such as curtains and bedding, and turn it off upon leaving a room or when going to bed. Do not leave candles unattended and make sure smoke alarms are always working.

“Your actions, or inactions, can affect a lot more people than just yourself,” Kerrigan said. “If you live in a residence hall or if you are in a building that houses dozens of classes at the same time, [a fire] could affect a lot of people.”

On Thursday, Oct. 11, the Fire Prevention department will be having an information tent outside of Ehinger Gym from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. with information about fire safety. Free smoke alarms and other prizes will be given away, and fire equipment, such as small fire extinguishers, will be sold for a small fee.

“Students can always contact me [for more information] by calling me, e-mailing me or coming to my office,” Kerrigan said.

One can find Kerrigan’s office in 201 Carter Drive, Suite 100 or can call him at 610-436-2129.

In addition, the website for the Fire Safety department is On the website, one can find a plethora of information on the policies WCU offers concerning certain appliances that may be a fire hazard.

The university’s prime goal is not just offering educational information about fire prevention and awareness during Fire Prevention Week, but all year round.

Jenn Halligan is a first-year student majoring in English education. She can be reached at

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