The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Smoke-filled Cinco Center teaches lesson

With firetrucks parked outside the Cinco Center and smoke billowing from the building, it might have seemed like something had gone wrong Wednesday afternoon at SMU.

But as streams of first-year students could tell you, it was all carefully planned.

Cori Cusker, the Smith Hall director, has been working to put on the Great Escape since May.

The event simulates the atmosphere and dangers of a real fire and is an educational opportunity for first-years, Cusker said. Firefighters are on hand to talk to students about what to do in case of the real thing.

“They treat it like a real fire,” she said.

During the simulation, groups of up to 40 students are dispersed throughout the building while firefighters prepare to flood it with smoke. After smoke detectors go off and the lights are cut, students have two minutes to get out of the building. Firefighters stationed throughout the building tap participants on the shoulder if they make a mistake, like standing up during the evacuation.

First-year Grant Lewis of Virginia-Snider said he didn’t make it.

“I died because I didn’t follow along a wall,” he said, “It kind of opens your eyes because you don’t expect it to be that dark.”

Fellow first-year Dane Brannan agreed.

“There’s absolutely no visibility,” he said, “And you only have a couple of minutes to get out.”

Cusker said that most of the residence halls were having staff members bring students in groups.

“We’re hoping for 300 to 400 people,” she said.

Sophomore biology major and Cockrell-McIntosh Resident Adviser Divya Balasubramanian said her hall was bringing students over every half-hour or so.

After going through the smoke-filled Cinco Center, students were treated to Buffalo wings, chips and water while listening to University Park Fire Capt. Rick Scamardo.

“What we’re trying to teach you here is how to escape from a smoke-filled building,” he said.

“When you go on a vacation or even when you’re at home, look for fire exits – plan two escape routes,” he said.

The most obvious escapes are doors and windows. And in a real fire, “You’ll probably have less than two minutes to get yourself out before you’re dead from smoke and heat,” he said.

The most important things for students to remember are to “crawl low in smoke, have an idea of where you’re going, use the wall as a guide, and don’t walk,” said Scamardo.

Cusker said Residence Life and Student Housing tried different methods of advertising this year to attract students, including using cups and holding raffles for gift certificates at the event.

Something else most students don’t know, said Cusker, is that the funding for the event comes from fire-safety violations.

“All the money from those violations goes back into programming,” she said.

According to junior Lee Hinga, it’s money well spent.

The Apartment Community Assistant for the North Area Apartments said that this year was his first time attending the Great Escape.

“It’s a good experience,” he said. “I wish I’d done it before.”


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