Wits is upgrading its fire detection systems but students who are in buildings still to be upgraded are still safe according to an engineer overseeing the process.

The Occupational Health and Safety Department (OH&S) of the Property and Infrastructure Management Division (PIMD) has installed early warning fire detectors in fourteen of the twenty-six main residence complexes of Wits. South Court, Campus Lodge, Ernest Oppenheimer Hall and International House are currently in the process of being upgraded.

“The safety of students and staff is my main concern. If someone’s safety was jeopardised in any way, I would not be able to sleep,” said Richard Quinton, Responsible Engineer for Wits.

Quinton said: “Overall completion is at 64%. We have to complete the installation in eight more residence areas and that will be done by the end of 2013.”

Parktown Village 1 and 2, North Lodge, Matrons Cottage, Trematon Place and Graduate Lodge are part of the 2013 upgrade plans.

Safety measures in many of Wits’ buildings are in the process of being upgraded through the installation of early warning fire detectors and the official appointment and training of Evacuation Wardens. |

Prior to the renovations students had to use fog horns to alert other students that a fire had broken out. New equipment will allow for distinct audible fire alarms at residences.

Once the installation is complete, PIMD and Campus Control will immediately be alerted if a fire is detected in any of the buildings. BritFire’s response team in Brixton is on 24-hour alert.

In addition to upgrading the fire warning systems, OH&S plans to increase the number of evacuation personnel available in each building.

According to the official Wits Health and Safety Policy each floor in every building needs to have at least three full-time staff members that have received training in occupational health and safety procedures, first aid and fire marshalling skills respectively.

“Currently the residences don’t have enough evacuation and health and safety personnel so we (OH&S) and CLTD (Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development) will train postgraduates or senior students to assist in emergency cases,” said Quinton.

These people will be trained in the use of an evacuation chair and fire extinguishers and will be required to give students living in residences talks about the correct safety procedure to follow in case of a fire.

Quinton said OH&S also plans to implement a buddy system for students living in residences. “Friends will evacuate a building together, so if one friend is missing the students can alert evacuation officials about it.”

Published in Wits Vuvuzela, 22nd Edition, August 31