Sprinkler system up to par, yearly goals in place for other campus housing

by Allison LaneStaff Writer

The majority of Simpson’s on-campus residences are protected by sprinkler systems, and plans are being made to cover even more locations.A recent article in The Des Moines Register reported the amount of fire protection, mainly sprinkler systems, in on-campus residences. Compared to other Iowa colleges both public and private, Simpson has a more favorable ratio of sprinkler-protected rooms to non-protected rooms. Still, 32 percent of students don’t have sprinklers in their residences, according to the Des Moines Register article.Gary Dooley, assistant campus service director and head of maintenance, said that Simpson was a forerunner in equipping residences with fire protections, especially sprinkler systems.”We started putting sprinklers in the dorms seven years ago, before it became mandated,” Dooley said. “The academic buildings are sprinkled and almost all have central alarm systems.”The college has figures for sprinkling the Washington, Detroit and Colonial apartments. A company has also been called in to look at Buxton, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Lambda Chi Alpha.”The goal is in four or five years to have all of the main residences covered by sprinklers,” Dooley said. “We try to do at least one a year, and we’ve done it the past seven years.”Sensitivity tests are conducted every year by an outside company to ensure the alarms are functioning properly. The sprinkler systems are also checked every four months to ensure they will work properly in the event of a fire.The only major fire incident happened a few years ago in what is now Worth House. A fire broke out in the lower levels, and while no injuries were reported, some students were treated for smoke inhalation.Indianola Fire Chief Brian Seymour says that when it comes to fire protection, life safety is the biggest concern, especially in any place with large occupancy like a college residence hall. “Providing sprinkler protection is a major life-safety factor in both protecting and putting the fire out,” Seymour said.On Feb. 10, the fire alarm at Alpha Chi Omega went off around 10:00 am, causing all of the girls to get up and evacuate the house. Since it is one of three privately owned sorority houses (Delta Delta Delta and Pi Beta Phi being the other two), no notice was immediately given to campus security.After approximately 20 minutes, the girls reached campus security and were informed that since the house is not owned by Simpson, security couldn’t do anything. The girls then contacted the Indianola Fire Department and had the house inspected by a pair of firefighters. It turned out the fire alarm had just gone off on its own, as they are known to do sometimes, according to one of the firemen.Sophomore Katie Van der Linden is the house manager and vice president of communications for Alpha Chi Omega. She said that all the neighbors were kind enough to check in with the girls while they waited on the front lawn. Even though it meant getting out of a warm bed, she said she was glad the alarms work.”I’m glad at least it works,” Van der Linden said. “This is better than it not working when it actually needs to.”Seymour says that while Indianola doesn’t have a local ordinance, there is a national push to get more residential facilities sprinkled on college campuses. Simpson is already ahead of the legislation by continuing to cover more of campus.”Simpson is very conscious of updating fire-alarm systems, as well as sprinklers,” Seymour said. “They’ve done a pretty decent job of getting up to that level and actively working on them.”