Most of MCCC’s facilities do not have a sprinkler system, but the college is prepared in case of a fire.
“The old buildings were constructed with sprinklers in storage rooms and mechanical rooms,” said Jim Blumberg, plant manager of MCCC.
In the 1960s, building codes only required sprinklers in places where there was a higher risk of fires.
“The fire codes have changed over the years,” said Blumberg.
The sprinkler code is not retroactive, meaning that only new buildings on campus must have a complete sprinkler system.
“We replaced hot water lines in one building,” said Blumberg. “Just on one section I spent $250,000.”
Running water lines for sprinklers would be a similar project, potentially costing the college the millions, he said.
The fire safety measures that are in place on campus focus more on the isolation of flames, rather than extinguishing them, Blumberg said. The walls between rooms have a two-hour safety rating, the floors are insulated with fire-retardant material, the doors are one and a half hour rated fire doors, and there are smoke detectors and fire dampers in the ductwork.
These measures are in place to contain potential fires until firefighters can arrive, he said.
There also are fire extinguishers in the chemistry labs, computer labs and in mechanics.
“You need an extinguisher every 150 feet,” Blumberg said.
Besides the structural protection of the buildings, the foremost concern is evacuation, he said. To ensure that everyone can get out there are sirens, lit exit signs with a battery back-up, and clear escape routes.
Chris Perria is the chairman of MCCC’s health and safety committee.
“OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) doesn’t require sprinklers in science labs,” Perria said.
“It might be safer (to have sprinklers), but some chemicals react with water,” he said.
The fire safety precautions appear to be working.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a fire on campus,” Blumberg said.
Regardless, Blumberg said, students need to always consider the possibility of a fire, and know what to do in case one does break out. Do not panic, and know where the nearest extinguisher and exit is at all times.