District Offices - 1621 Riverton Road Cinnaminson, NJ 08077

After the Fire 2016

On April 22, 2016 we met with Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos for the second time at Cinnaminson High School. Their story of inspiration and education is essential for high school students, teachers, college students, parents, and fire service personnel to learn. On January 19, 2000 the lives of thousands were affected by a fire on the campus of Seton Hall University in Boland Hall. A fire was intentionally set on the third floor lounge of Boland Hall by students partying in celebration of a big win over a rival basketball team. The fire grew very fast and burned very hot; the building fire alarm was activated several times that night. Complacency had set in and no one wanted to leave their warm dorm rooms. The students that attempted to leave were faced with heavy fire and smoke conditions. Three freshman students passed away and 58 others were injured. Shawn and Alvaro were two of the most severely burned students.

This is the second year the Cinnaminson Fire Marshal’s Office has run the fire prevention program for seniors preparing to go to college. This year, Palmyra High School seniors were invited to attend the presentation. When preparing to go to college there are a lot of decisions to make and sometimes fire safety choices are overlooked. Throughout the presentation you will realize that the skills learned at a very young age could have increased the chance of surviving the fire and getting out of the dorm room safely.

After this fire the state of New Jersey passed legislation which requires all colleges, universities, and boarding school housing to be fully suppressed. This will also include fraternities, sororities, and off campus housing owned by the institution. These systems are required to be tested annually per NFPA. The New Jersey Uniform Fire Code requires an automatic fire alarm system to be installed and maintained in all residential buildings that have more than three apartments and in all dormitories. There are buildings in the school area that are NOT sanctioned by the institution but are available for student housing. These buildings may NOT have all the fire protection systems found on campus or in school sanctioned housing.

There are many things to check when you’re moving into your dorm room. Always know two ways out. Look at all exit doors and hallways to make sure they are free and clear and there is no storage blocking them. Windows may be used as an emergency exit if there is only one means of egress out of the room. Check to make sure the windows and fire escapes are clear from storage and unobstructed.

Windows with bars must be operable from the inside. Dorm room doors can play a major role in surviving fires. Dormitory sleeping room doors have self-closing hardware. This is to keep the smoke and fire gases from entering the dorm room.

After the presentation, we handed out Cinnaminson Fire Department lanyards for all of the seniors for both schools. I explained to the students they should put their dorm room key on the lanyard and keep it next to their bed. If they are able to make it into the hallway but then have to return because conditions worsen they will need their dorm room keys to get back in. When the fire alarm goes off they must get dressed, grab their dorm room keys, and feel the door for heat before opening. If there is no heat you must crawl low and find the closest and safest exit to leave the building. The main exit, although used every day, may not be the safest way out of a fire. Throughout the presentation we learned that several students including Shawn and Alvaro did not remember their second exit. They crawled through extreme heat and smoke to make it through the main exit. They explained if they had went to the second exit, although they would have been in some smoke, they would not have been burned as badly.

Shawn and Alvaro spoke about several topics throughout the presentation that include fire alarms, sprinkler systems, escape plans, and the effects of pranks. They also discuss overcoming adversity – the physical, mental, and emotional toll faced during trying times and more. Fire safety procedures must be exercised throughout our lives not just when we are children learning stop, drop, and roll. Always know your surroundings and how to get back out. Look for second exits, sprinkler systems, fire alarms, and if the building has a compliance certificate from the university. There are so many decisions to make about moving away to college; put life safety at the top of the list.