Iowa State ‘Fire Safety Day’

By Jared McKenna

Pull. Aim. Squeeze. Sweep. Four short words create the easy to remember acronym—P.A.S.S. This easy to remember, but often unknown, acronym could mean the difference between containing a small fire or evacuation of a burning building.

The Department of Environmental Health and Safety at Iowa State University has taken a proactive approach by creating Campus Fire Safety Day. The event, created in 2010, has taught about 300 students per year the proper use of a fire extinguisher. Students have the opportunity to use a fire extinguisher to put out a simulated fire during the event.

Fire Safety Officer for the Emergency Management and Fire Safety at Iowa State, Troy Carey, urges students to act quickly in an emergency situation. “There is only about ten to fifteen seconds worth of extinguishing agent [in an average fire extinguisher], so it’s important to be decisive.”


The simulated fire device (right) is about to be electronically ignited for a student to train.

Carey also reiterated, in an emergency situation, it is not any one person’s responsibility to use a fire extinguisher to put out a fire. “It is perfectly acceptable to use a pull station fire alarm, alert others of the emergency, and evacuate the building.”

Training students how to correctly use a fire extinguisher can reduce the number of fires that require evacuation. The Campus Fire Safety Day event is held outside where a larger crowd can listen to the instructors and participate in extinguishing a simulated fire. “It’s easier to train more people in a short amount of time than if the event was held in a classroom where about 20 or 25 people could attend,” Carey said.

According to Carey, the number of fires requiring evacuation have gone down in his 18 years at Iowa State University. “Even with more square footage [of new buildings or additions] and more students at Iowa State, the number of fires have gone down and education and [safety] inspections play a role in that.”


A student uses the P.A.S.S. method to extinguish a simulated fire.

Among the many students participating in the event, large numbers have no hands-on experience with a fire extinguisher. One Iowa State student, Nick Struss, is one of the many people who never used a fire extinguisher before the event. “I know where my fire extinguisher is located, but I wasn’t entirely sure on how to use it. It’s actually a lot easier than I thought. Just twist off and pull the pin and plastic, point, and fire,” Struss said.

The event can be used for more than learning how to use a fire extinguisher. “I even learned about the different dangers of chemical fires… It’s a good refresher and good for everyone because fire is a hazard everywhere.”


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