On their way from their morning classes to their dorm rooms or the cafeteria, Kennesaw State University students will have to pass a burning dorm room on the campus green.
The fourth annual event will start just after 12 p.m. today, and could last only minutes, as students and faculty watch a mock dorm room become engulfed in flames in mere seconds.
Bob Lang, the school’s chief security officer, will tip a lit candle over in a mock dorm room, which will set the room on fire, he said.
The event is a way to teach students the importance of fire safety, what to do in an emergency, and how quickly a small flame can turn into a dangerous fire.
Home Depot donated enough wood and supplies this year to build a 12x10 dorm room, which will be filled with a bed, desk, trash can, pizza boxes, curtains and bed sheets, things previous students have left behind in their residences, Lang said.
Within five minutes, he expects the room to be destroyed.
Last year’s event brought out about 200 students, and this year, Lang is hoping to draw about 450 students.
There are more than 3,500 KSU students living in four on-campus residence communities throughout the school, said Jeff Cooper, the director of university housing and residence life.
“I think students get a lot from it. I think it sends a really good educational message, and I think the students learn a lot about how to be careful, that sometimes it’s the littlest things that can set off a fire,” he said.
Simply being absent-minded can lead to a student’s entire room being engulfed by flames.
Before the candle gets tipped over, students will have the opportunity to learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher, with a new electronic fire extinguisher system the school bought for $15,000.
Through a simulated fire on a screen, students will practice putting out fires while holding an electronic fire extinguisher, an educational activity Lang hopes the students will enjoy, as it is similar to playing a video game.
So far this semester there has been one fire-related incident in the dorm rooms. A student was popping some microwaveable popcorn when it caught on fire and started to smoke, setting off the building’s fire alarms.
Last year there was another similar microwave incident, but overall, the campus hasn’t seen many dorm room fires, Lang said.
Regardless, the event will teach students the dangers of neglecting lit flames in their rooms, as in a typical fire, “it usually takes about 40 seconds for those detectors to go off. It doesn’t give you much time to react,” Lang said.
Because this year’s event will occur during KSU’s homecoming week, Lang hopes that the students will attend the dorm burning in lieu of a campus bonfire, traditional of many homecoming celebrations.
In the event of a fire, students are taught that, “the best thing to do, is to get out and warn other people. Then call 911,” said university spokesman Robert Godlewski.