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Resident Assistants At Ramapo College Undergo ‘Trial By Fire’

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)September 3, 2002

(Mahwah) – Through smoke so dense it blocked sunlight coming through windows and heat intense enough to crack the glass panes in another room, Senior Fire Instructor Al Gerber of the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Institute barked orders at 63 Ramapo College resident assistants (RAs) and resident directors (RDs). The RAs and RDs responded by raising their hands to experience the intensity of the heat rising to the ceiling, and by dropping to the ground to experience first-hand the benefits of crawling on the floor in the event of fire. The heat came from a propane-fueled fire in a custom-built pit and the smoke was the non-toxic theatrical variety (water-based glycol). Both are elements in Bergen Police and Fire Academy’s Smoke House,” an all-concrete structure built as a demonstration site for training new recruits.

For the last three years, the demonstrations have been part of Ramapo College’s RA/RD orientation. Along with training in time management, customer service and the full range of college policies, they learn to take a proactive approach to fire safety. The best way to deal with fire is to prevent it,” Gerber tells his audience. I’ve been on college campuses and have seen the accumulation of pizza boxes and fast-food bags – it’s a mess. The number one way to prevent fires on campus is good housekeeping.” But once fire starts, he says, the key to safely evacuating your building is to stay calm. Don’t panic.” Gerber’s lecture and the simulations prepare the RAs and RDs to do just that. Gerber further demonstrates how to take charge in an emergency, even giving the students pointers on what to say and how to say it. GET DOWN!” he shouts authoritatively. Later, in another room, he orders, PUT YOUR RIGHT HAND ON THE WALL AND YOUR LEFT HAND ON THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU! NOW MOVE FORWARD TO THE DOOR AND OUT!”

Residence Life fire safety regulations at Ramapo College are enforced by resident assistants (RAs) and resident directors (RDs). All RAs and RDs are required to attend the three-hour fire safety awareness course at the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Institute.

The Residence Life staff requires RAs to conduct floor programs on fire safety awareness. The floor plan, evacuation route, drill procedures and fire safety policies are reviewed by RAs during the first floor meeting. The college conducts fire exit drills in residence halls twice a year, in accordance with the state uniform fire code.

RDs and RAs are not expected to fight fires or risk their own life during fire emergencies. Like others, they are expected to exit when an alarm sounds and account for people at a pre-determined meeting place. RAs and RDs assist with familiarizing students with fire prevention measures and exit routes before an emergency occurs.

Training RAs is just one piece in a larger, comprehensive fire safety effort on the part of Ramapo College administrators. All residences are fully sprinklered. All newer campus residences were fully sprinklered during construction and older residences, which were partially sprinklered in the 1980s, were retrofitted in 2001 with sprinklers in every room.

All Ramapo College residence hall fire alarm panels are electronically connected to campus Public Safety Headquarters, providing immediate notification of an alarm condition and resulting in an expeditious response to the potential emergency.


About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.


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