The Sacred Purpose Blog

Editor’s note:  This is a guest post from Peter Mulvihill, Epsilon/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ’78. Pete is the chapter advisor for our Beta Phi chapter at Nevada.  He is currently serving as the Nevada State Fire Marshal. We are grateful for Pete’s expertise and enthusiasm to write a five-part blog series about fire safety.  This is a relevant reminder about the very real dangers of fires in fraternity houses.  Thank you, Pete, for helping to protect our brothers.

 

You don’t want to have a fire, but it happens all the same.  What can you do right now to prepare for a possible fire?

Before the Fire

  • Plan your escape. Know how to get out of every room in the chapter house. Post evacuation maps on the backs of doors to every sleeping room. While you may be comfortable and familiar with the layout of your chapter house, your guests likely are not. Posted evacuation routes will help them get out.
  • Practice your escape. Hold fire drills, at least once a quarter, if not required more frequently by your local campus or fire agency. Fire drills test your fire alarm system and reinforce your brothers’ abilities to react and respond. Make the first fire drill of the year a practice and training session with everyone forewarned.
  • Familiarize your local fire department with your chapter house. Once a year, at the beginning of the school year, invite the local responding fire company to your chapter house for a familiarization tour. This is not a fire inspection! These are the crews that will respond to an emergency at your house. Every fire department “pre-plans” their response to all commercial and multi-residential properties within their district. They learn where all utility shutoffs are located, how to access the roof or attic, and become familiar with unusual or older construction features that may complicate firefighting operations. It is an excellent opportunity to become familiar with them, their expectations, and what they will do upon arrival.

During an Emergency

  • Call 9-1-1! Get help rolling your way first, no matter what the problem is, then assist those around you.
  • Get out and stay out! Once you are out of the house and safe, DO NOT go back in, for any reason. The fire department (you called them first, remember!) has the tools, personal protective equipment and breathing apparatus to survive the fire environment, YOU DON’T.
  • Account for everyone. Make a head count and account for every brother, visitor or guest. Develop a list of unaccounted people and where they were last seen.
  • Only one responsible representative, preferably the chapter president, should talk to the arriving fire department. You will need to update authorities about missing brothers and briefly explain any events leading up to the incident. Stay available for further questions and requests for information.

 

  • After the Emergency
  • Make notifications. Call your alumni advisory board and your housing corporation; they will need to notify your insurance carrier. In addition, call the International Headquarters with details about injuries and/or property damage.
  • Secure the property. The chapter house is a significant asset, protect it from further damage by boarding up broken windows, covering holes in roofs and securing doorways. Insurance company resources can often arrange for professional assistance in securing the property and reducing additional damage claims. When it is safe to reenter, collect valuables, both tangible and intangible, from the chapter house. The fire department will notify you if and when it is safe to go back inside and will formally transfer responsibility for the property back to you.
  • Arrange for temporary housing. This is best done as contingency planning before a fire, flood or earthquake devastates a chapter house. Have a place to go on short notice. Reach out to campus housing authorities and other Greek organizations. Let them know ahead of time what spare capacity, if any, you have to help others if they are in trouble. Community service organizations, such as the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, are also resources for very brief periods of assistance. Alumni in the area may be a resource or know of resources for longer term temporary housing. Alumni may also assist with immediate needs for clothing and the everyday items that are needed.
  • Rally the troops—rebuild, restore and resume. Get everyone together and continue forward. For serious incidents, arrange for counseling services both as a group and individually as needed. No one is bulletproof, everyone can use a helping hand at some point.

 

Please contact the Director of Education or me if you have any questions.

I hope these several articles have helped make your chapter house just a bit safer.

Fraternally yours,

Pete Mulvihill

State Fire Marshal Division

Nevada Department of Public Safety

Epsilon Chapter/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ‘78

 

For information and case histories of fraternity house fires, see “Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities and Barracks,” by Richard Campbell, August 2013, published by the National Fire Protection Association, available on their website, www.nfpa.org under research reports, or at this link: http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Research/NFPA%20reports/Occupancies/osdorms.pdf

 

Additional safety tips can be found in the Resource Guide for the Vice President of Health and Safety and at www.nfpa.org/campussafety.

 

Editor’s note:  This is a guest post from Peter Mulvihill, Epsilon/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ’78. Pete is the chapter advisor for our Beta Phi chapter at Nevada.  He is currently serving as the Nevada State Fire Marshal.  We are grateful for Pete’s expertise and enthusiasm to write a five-part blog series about fire safety.  This is a relevant reminder about the very real dangers of fires in fraternity houses.  Thank you, Pete, for helping to protect our brothers.

 

Of all the fire risks in fraternity houses, fires caused by electrical and lighting equipment result in the largest overall property damage on an annual basis.  Similar to fires caused by heating equipment, the number of fires caused by electrical equipment is small, representing only 60 of the 3,810 fires annually in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and barracks.  However, they account for 27 percent of all fire property damage (over $2 million dollars) and approximately 10 percent of injuries.

Why to electrical fires cause so much damage?

  • Overheated electrical wiring is often located out of sight – inside walls, in attics or in crawlspaces. These fires can grow undetected and are often out of reach of automatic sprinkler systems.
  • Fires started by electrical failures continue with energized circuits feeding the overheated wiring.
  • Combustible items, such as decorations or fabric, can be easily ignited if the circuit breaker fails and does not trip. A failed circuit breaker can cause wires to arc and create flame.

Here are a few tips to help keep your chapter house safe from electrical hazards:

  • Repeated resetting of tripped circuit breakers won’t make the problem go away. Circuit breakers that trip more than once are probably not a faulty breaker, but an overloaded circuit. Houses designed as late as the 1980’s did not anticipate the electrical loads common in today’s college environment. A single desk lamp and typewriter has given way to computers, printers, phone chargers, game consoles, a small refrigerator and any number of devices. Survey your electrical demand and make adjustments as needed. Dividing demand by adding new circuits should only be done by a licensed electrician using permanent wiring from a main electric panel with adequate spare capacity.
  • Beware of extension cords! Use only fused power strips when you absolutely, positively have to plug more than two devices into that duplex outlet. Also, never “daisy-chain” power strips, one after another, as the ground fault circuit protection built into a power strip’s function can be compromised. There are legal and legitimate uses for extension cords, but they require proper wire gauge and only a single plug receptacle and cannot be a replacement for installation of permanent wiring. Consult your local electrician, campus safety professional or fire department for those times when an extension cord can be safely used.
  • Throw those multiple plug adapters away! Clark Griswold used them to feed his Christmas lights, and look what happened to him. They are typically of light construction and provide no local overload protection such as a power strip. Listed and approved multi-plug adapters that include overload, ground fault and surge protection are available and can expand your duplex outlet to serve five or six devices, provided the aggregate electrical demand is still reasonable.
  • Light bulbs get hot. Lamp shades, fabric and other decorations in contact with incandescent or halogen bulbs can ignite. Fluorescent ballasts also produce heat and may be found either built into a lamp fixture or incorporated in the base of a compact fluorescent bulb. Keep light fixtures clean with adequate air circulation. If discolored or melted lamp globes, shades or fixtures are discovered, discontinue use until repaired or replaced.
  • Cords don’t make good padding for carpets. Appliance, light or power strip cords don’t belong under carpets. Dirt and traffic can wear and abrade the cord causing shorts and arcing. Heat build-up from electrical resistancein the cord, particularly in small wire gauges, also can’t dissipate under a carpet and have caused fires.
  • Frayed or exposed conductors. This is a fire waiting to happen. Repair or replace any wiring, appliance cord or device connection prior to any additional use. Wrapping the damaged area with electrical tape does not repair the damaged conductors which may now be generating more heat due to increased resistance.

If you find yourself jiggling that stack of plugs in order to get the roof-top holiday lights on, make sure it’s really the glow from Rudolph’s nose that you see and not the chapter house roof on fire.

 

In our next article, we will discuss planning for all things “fire.”

 

Statistics are quoted from “Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities and Barracks,” by Richard Campbell, August 2013, published by the National Fire Protection Association.  The complete report can be found on their website, www.nfpa.org under research reports, or at this link: http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Research/NFPA%20reports/Occupancies/osdorms.pdf

 

Additional safety tips can be found in the Resource Guide for the Vice President of Health and Safety and at www.nfpa.org/campussafety.

 

Editor’s note:  This is a guest post from Peter Mulvihill, Epsilon/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ’78. Pete is the chapter advisor for our Beta Phi chapter at Nevada.  He is currently serving as the Nevada State Fire Marshal. We are grateful for Pete’s expertise and enthusiasm to write a five-part blog series about fire safety.  This is a relevant reminder about the very real dangers of fires in fraternity houses.  Thank you, Pete, for helping to protect our brothers.

 

The second largest cause of civilian fire injuries in fraternity houses is from incidents involving heating equipment.  Although the number of fires each year from heating equipment is small – only 100 of the 3,810 fires annually in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and barracks – they account for approximately 23 percent of all fire injuries and approximately $1-2 million in property damages each year.

Factors leading to heating equipment fires include:

  • Use of portable space heaters
  • Lack of maintenance of fuel burners or boilers
  • Use of unattended equipment
  • Radiant heat is the leading heat source for fires

Heating equipment is necessary and vital for comfort and safety.  What can you do to protect your brothers from fires caused by heating equipment?

  • Service heating equipment every fall.Opening a chapter house for the fall semester means turning everything back on and preparing for the coming winter months. Have the furnace/boiler serviced by a licensed technician. Not only will the technician spot and correct safety problems before they manifest themselves, they will adjust the burners and systems for the most efficient operation saving money that is just going up the chimney flue.
  • Portable space heaters are no substitute for a working furnace/boiler!Not only do they waste energy and overload electrical circuits, but clothing, draperies, upholstered furniture or bed clothes cannot tolerate the radiant heat from some units for any extended period of time.
  • Cold rooms.If a portion of the house is routinely cold, check the operation of the building’s heating system. Check for closed valves, collapsed or obstructed ductwork, inappropriate thermostat locations, and other problems. Often the local utility company or your heating contractor will provide a complimentary energy survey of your house with recommendations for effective and efficient operation.
  • Emergency heat is sometimes needed.Occasionally, even with the best of maintenance and planning, heating systems will fail requiring major, extended repairs or replacement. This can be particularly difficult in the middle of a severe cold weather period. The need to keep water pipes from freezing and causing further damage now becomes vital. Consult with your Health and Safety Advisor, campus safety professionals, and the local fire department, if necessary, about providing temporary heat in your house. In extreme cases where temporary heat may not be feasible or possible, have a plan to drain water pipes and shutdown other sensitive equipment for the duration of the repairs to the heating system.
  • Fireplaces need cleaning, too. Fireplaces provide an attractive atmosphere, especially during the height of winter. They also provide a potential safety hazard if not properly maintained. If your chapter house has a wood burning fireplace, have the chimney, flue, and fire box inspected and cleaned by a chimney sweep every fall as part of the opening of a house for the coming school year. Gaps and breaks in the flue can leak heat and smoke into concealed spaces within the building structure, carbon monoxide can infiltrate other parts of the house and attic fires can present significant challenges to fire suppression personnel with extensive, unavoidable water damage cascading down through a house.
  • Consider converting inefficient and air polluting wood burning fireplaces to a gas fired appliance for reduced cost, decreased heat loss, and improved safety. Gas fireplaces operate at lower temperatures, often use outside air for combustion avoiding the need to draw up the chimney warm air from inside the house and eliminate the hassle and hazard of ash and ember disposal.

Stay warm next winter, grab an extra sweater if you need to, and enjoy the fire in the fireplace, not standing on the sidewalk looking up at your chapter house.

In our next article, we will discuss electrical and lighting equipment fires.

 

Statistics are quoted from “Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities and Barracks,” by Richard Campbell, August 2013, published by the National Fire Protection Association.  The complete report can be found on their website, www.nfpa.org under research reports, or at this link: http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Research/NFPA%20reports/Occupancies/osdorms.pdf

 

Additional safety tips can be found in the Resource Guide for the Vice President of Health and Safety and at www.nfpa.org/campussafety.

Editor’s note:  This is a guest post from Peter Mulvihill, Epsilon/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ’78. Pete is the chapter advisor for our Beta Phi chapter at Nevada.  He is currently serving as the Nevada State Fire Marshal. We are grateful for Pete’s expertise and enthusiasm to write a five-part blog series about fire safety.  This is a relevant reminder about the very real dangers of fires in fraternity houses.  Thank you, Pete, for helping to protect our brothers.

 

By far the largest cause of fires in fraternity houses is cooking equipment.  Each year, there are approximately 3200 fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and barracks that are caused by cooking equipment.  These fires produce an average of nine injuries and approximately $1 million in damages each year.

Factors leading to cooking fires include:

  • Cooking foods left unattended.
  • Cleanliness of the cooking area, exhaust hood and duct system.
  • Heat source too close to combustible materials.

When cooking meals, pay attention to your duties.  Know what to do and what not to do if a fire flares up on the cook top.  It can make the difference between a charbroiled hamburger and a fire-gutted kitchen.

  • Never pour water on a grease fire! Cover a burning pan with a metal lid or another, larger pan in a sliding motion that pushes the flames away from you.
  • Never pick up a burning pan and move it across the kitchen! Picture the spilling, burning grease spreading the fire across the floor and you!
  • Keep a “K” class fire extinguisher in the kitchen. The common “ABC” type fire extinguishers are ineffective against grease fires. Instead, use a fire extinguishing agent specially designed for the types of grease fires commonly found in kitchens.
  • Keep your cooking area clean. Keep combustible materials away from the cook top where radiant heat, hot pans or flash fires can ignite them. Daily, clean accumulated grease and films from walls, cook tops, removable grease filters and grease hoods. Besides providing less material to ignite, additional benefits include control over food-borne illnesses (your brothers will thank you).
  • Professionally clean the grease hood and exhaust duct at least twice a year, more often if your contractor notices a large accumulation of condensed grease vapors hidden up in the exhaust duct. Use a licensed contractor as they will have the necessary tools and equipment to access all parts of a kitchen exhaust duct system. They provide an insurance bond to protect the chapter from damages due to their activities (or lack of proper activities).
  • Maintain the kitchen hood fire suppression system. Popularly known also by various trade names, such as an Ansul, PyroChem or another system name, these are custom engineered for specific cooking equipment layouts and hazards. Twice a year, a licensed contractor needs to inspect and service the equipment—fusible links in the exhaust hood that will automatically activate the system must be replaced, agent cylinders are weighed to check for leakage, and tanks are hydrostatically tested on longer frequencies. Any relocation or changeout of cooking equipment affects the operation and effectiveness of these fire suppression systems and requires a review and potential modification by a licensed contractor.

So enjoy that burger, but make sure the kitchen is able to prepare another one later.

In our next article, we will discuss heating equipment fires.

Statistics are quoted from “Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities and Barracks,” by Richard Campbell, August 2013, published by the National Fire Protection Association.  The complete report can be found on their website, www.nfpa.org under research reports, or at this link: http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Research/NFPA%20reports/Occupancies/osdorms.pdf

Additional safety tips can be found in the Resource Guide for the Vice President of Health and Safety and at www.nfpa.org/campussafety.

 

Editor’s note:  This is a guest post from Peter Mulvihill, Epsilon/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ’78. Pete is the chapter advisor for our Beta Phi chapter at Nevada.  He is currently serving as the Nevada State Fire Marshal.  We are grateful for Pete’s expertise and enthusiasm to write a five-part blog series about fire safety.  This is a relevant reminder about the very real dangers of fires in fraternity houses.  Thank you, Pete, for helping to protect our brothers.

 

It is never a question of if a fire will occur, only a question of when it will happen.  It may go without saying, but nobody wants to have a fire.  However, the truth is that the vast majority of fires are unintentional, with only 7 percent being deliberately set.  The other 93 percent are not planned.

When the fire starts, what does your chapter have in place that will protect you, your brothers, and your guests?  What plans do you have that will reduce the damage to your chapter house?

According to a 2013 report published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) entitled Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities and Barracks, each year there are approximately 3,810 fires in these types of structures in the United States.  Annually, these fires caused an average of two deaths, thirty injuries, and $9.4 million in property damage.  Additional untold challenges and costs are caused by emotional distress, dislocation from one’s residence, and personal energy spent rebuilding.

  • 70 percent of these fires began in the kitchen
  • 7 percent of these fires started in bedrooms. However, bedroom fires were responsible for 27 percent of injuries and 21 percent of property damage
  • 23 percent of all injuries were caused by fires associated with heating equipment
  • Fires are more common between 5-11 p.m., as well a during weekends
  • Electrical distribution and lighting caused the largest property damage from fires

Fortunately, most fires are small.  Ninety-two percent did not produce flame damage that spread beyond the point of origin. Only, two percent of all fires spread to involve more than the room of origin.  This tells us that that a functioning fire protection system reduces the spread of fire.  And, more importantly, this reminds us that well-practiced fire safety plans can save lives by giving people opportunity for escape before the fire spreads.

What can you do to protect your brothers?  Now is the time to start planning and practicing your fire safety program.  The Resource Guide for the Vice President of Health and Safety includes a helpful checklist for conducting regular fire and building safety inspections.  It is an essential resource for undergraduate and alumni leaders.  The summer months offer an important opportunity to fire inspections and planning.

Because of the critical nature of this topic, this is the first of five articles that will further raise awareness and provide practical ideas for protecting our brothers.

Peter J. Mulvihill, P.E., Epsilon/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ‘78

Nevada State Fire Marshal

Nevada Department of Public Safety

 

 

The complete NFPA report can be found on their website, www.nfpa.org under research reports, or at this link: http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Research/NFPA%20reports/Occupancies/osdorms.pdf

Brothers and Friends,

This year was another record breaking year for Theta Chi as it pertains to The Sacred Purpose Movement and our Vice Presidents of Health and Safety. We look forward to announcing the winner of the David L. Westol Sacred Purpose Award this summer! We would like to announce that Theta Chi Fraternity Chapters all around the world hosted over 335 health and safety related events and worked with over 178 clubs and organizations on their campuses. The data represented below is from the 101 reporting chapters and will continue to rise as we further our communication with Vice Presidents of Health and Safety this summer. The 335 health and safety related events distribute as follows;

Sexual Misconduct Prevention:    71

Alcohol and Drug Abuse:               63

Mental Health Awareness:             43

Nutrition and Well-Being:              32

Stress Management/ Relief:          18

Fire Health and Safety:                   16

Hazing Prevention/ Awareness:   9

Other:                                                 83

This is fantastic news as it represents the continued success of The Sacred Purpose Movement and the dedication of our Vice Presidents of Health and Safety around the world. As we continue our communication with the Vice Presidents of Health and Safety we will keep the numbers of events updated.

With the summer months upon us, it is important to start planning your campus outreach before the academic year commences. We have set a goal for our Vice Presidents of Health and Safety to execute over 550 events for the 2015-2016 academic year! It is important to keep in mind that when electing your chapter’s Vice President of Health and Safety that there are requirements and obligations that he must meet throughout the year. Those requirements and obligations include recruiting and training a Health and Safety Advisor, holding seven health and safety related events throughout the year and communicating regularly with the International Headquarters.

We will continue to provide top-notch education for our Vice Presidents of Health and Safety at our Mid-Year Leadership Conferences and various other educational events held throughout the year. We hope to see you there and stay tuned throughout the summer for the announcement of the winner of the David L. Westol Sacred Purpose Award. Together, we can make 2015-2016 another stellar year!

If your chapter has not yet been in communication with Director of Education, Brandon Younkin, yet, now would be the time to do so. An example of the reporting structure is included below for your convenience.

  • Number of events:
  • Seven
  • Topics:
  • Alcohol Abuse, Sexual Misconduct, Fire Health and Safety, Drug Abuse, Mental Health, Nutrition, Physical Exercise and Fitness.
  • Organizations benefitted or involved:
  • MADD, Active Minds
  • Health and Safety Advisor Contact:
  • Ben Hill, 317-848-1856, ben@thetachi.org
  • Health Center Coordinator Contact:
  • Justin Jones, 317-848-1856, jjones@thetachi.org

 

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