Paul Smith’s College will hire a trained fire safety officer and staff a 24-hour dispatch center on campus, bolstering the institution’s ability to respond to emergencies. The additions will allow the college to provide the first response to most fire alarms on campus, reducing the burden on the Paul Smiths-Gabriels Volunteer Fire Department. The plan is scheduled to take effect before students arrive for the new academic year in August. It settles litigation between the college and the Town of Brighton regarding a fire-alarm law enacted in 2009.
“By improving our ability to respond to on-campus fire alarms, we’ll be able to investigate incidents within a matter of minutes – providing an extra layer of safety and protection to the campus community,” said Philip Fiacco, director of campus safety and emergency management at Paul Smith’s College. “It also means that we can provide some relief for the volunteer firefighters we rely on to handle serious fire emergencies.”
In recent years, the college has provided a first response to some alarms triggered in residence halls. Once the new plan takes effect, campus safety officials will respond to all single alarms and determine whether additional assistance is needed. Safety officials will evacuate affected areas as part of the response. Local fire officials will continue to be notified of fire alarms triggered outside of residence hall rooms and have the opportunity to respond if they wish. If multiple alarms are triggered simultaneously in the same building, the department will respond automatically.
“I’m happy that all of us took the extra time to study the issues, discuss the various circumstances and look for common points we could all agree on,” said Town of Brighton Supervisor Peter Shrope. “The solution we agreed to after 30 months of good-faith negotiations promises to be a win-win for everyone.”
The college’s new fire-safety officer will be responsible for conducting fire-safety training for the campus community and designing programs to reduce unnecessary alarms. Over the past several years, the college has already implemented several ways of doing that; the fire department responded to campus an average of 2.3 times a month between June 2012 and May 2013, compared to 5.7 times a month between June 2009 and May 2010.
“I am very happy that the college and town have come to an agreement to the avoidable alarm law issues,” said Paul Smiths-Gabriels Volunteer Fire Department Chief Roger Smith. “I feel the additional campus safety officers will be a good solution to keeping down the number of responses by the fire department to unnecessary alarms on campus, while not jeopardizing the safety of the students or faculty.”
The 24-hour dispatch post is a new addition to campus. At present, a dispatcher is on duty during the business day; calls go directly to campus safety officers during overnight hours.