Fire Drills Planned on Fairfax Campus This Fall

Posted: September 14, 2009 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: September 11, 2009 at 4:58 pm

By Rashad Mulla

In less than two weeks, the Mason community will be getting a heavy dose of fire safety training.

The Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) office will begin implementing regular fire drills in the university’s educational buildings on the Fairfax Campus starting Monday, Sept. 21. During the first week, a batch of six buildings will undergo the drills. All educational buildings on campus must undertake these tests annually.

The Statewide Fire Prevention Code requires that educational buildings have annual evacuation drills to “train staff and occupants and to evaluate their efficiency and effectiveness in carrying out evacuation procedures”.  Therefore, drills will most often take place during traditional business hours – 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. – and will undoubtedly interrupt some classes. The day before a drill is scheduled, signs will be posted throughout the selected buildings. Assembly areas will be posted on these signs.

“This all comes under the heading of annoying but prudent necessity: We recognize the inconvenience to those whose classes will be disrupted, but I want to assure faculty that we’re doing what the law requires and what our sister institutions in the commonwealth have already been doing. Thanks in advance for understanding,” says Provost Peter Stearns.

Julie Zobel, executive director of EHS, adds, “We’ve contacted the registrar to assist in the development of the drill schedule in order to limit interruptions to classroom activities. We are trying to make it less inconvenient, but we are required to do drills when the building is occupied.”

Drills should take no longer than eight minutes, Zobel says.

“Everyone is expected to leave their classrooms and offices and go to the assembly areas for their buildings,” Zobel says. “Professors should set a good example and evacuate, as required by the Statewide Fire Prevention Code.”

According to the International Fire Code, educational or business buildings having “an occupant load of 500 or more persons or more than 100 persons above or below the lowest level of exit discharge” are required to have an up-to-date fire safety and evacuation plan.

Zobel says EHS has been testing residence halls during the summer, and will continue to do so, resuming on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

This rigorous fire drill system is part of an increasing focus on fire safety at Mason. September is National Campus Fire Safety Month, and Mason is continuing to educate its community on the topic.

As part of the Second Annual Life Safety Fair on Thursday, Sept. 17, EHS will conduct a live dorm burn, in which staff members will incinerate a 128-cubic-foot space in a controlled blaze on the Presidents Park lawn.

For more information, contact Zobel at 703-993-8630 or

Following is the list of buildings to be tested.

College Hall
David King Hall
East Building
Engineering Building
Enterprise Hall
Fine Arts Building
Finley Building
Innovation Hall
Krasnow Institute
Krug Hall
Mason Hall
Research I
Robinson Hall A
Robinson Hall B
School of Art
Science & Tech I
Science & Tech II
Thompson Hall
West Building

Write to gazette at