Faculty upset with delayed debriefing following H Building fire

Editor’s note: This story is the second of multiple developing stories.

Debriefings are standard in the nursing field. So, when one was not held until nearly two months after an electrical fire in the H Building, nursing faculty at MCCC who evacuated during the fire last summer were surprised by the college’s lack of procedure.

Helen Stripling, director of respiratory therapy. (Photo by Maggie Sandefur.)

Following the events of the electrical fire on July 28 in the H Building, Nicole Garner, professor of nursing, and Helen Stripling, director of respiratory therapy, called for a debriefing.

Curtis Creagh, vice president of Finance and Administration, scheduled a debriefing for Sept. 14.

Creagh invited members of administration and faculty to attend. This invitation included Garner and Stripling.

Garner said an initial debriefing was scheduled in August but was canceled due to a fire alarm. Garner said she communicated to Creagh that she would be teaching a class during the Sept. 14 meeting and could not attend.

Due to these scheduling conflicts, Garner and Stripling said they assumed the debriefing would be rescheduled for a day where Garner could be present.

However, Garner and Stripling were sent notes, and discovered the debriefing had happened without them present.

“We were invited, but it was when I was teaching,” Garner said. “My understanding is that it was going to be rescheduled but then it ended up being held.”

Nicole Garner, professor of nursing. (Photo by Layla Pavlick.)

When asked about this, Creagh said they wanted to have the meeting as soon as possible to begin working on the issues.

Faculty and students evacuated the H Building last summer after an electrical fire broke out in a computer lab. What they did not realize was the building’s fire alarm was set to “test,” and the Monroe Township Fire Department was not going to respond.

The issues Creagh said needed to be addressed at the debriefing centered on an emergency door not unlocking properly. This left students unable to evacuate safely.

“In my opinion, the meeting still needed to happen,” Creagh said, “whether others could make it there or not.”

Stripling said she and Garner found errors within the minutes from that debriefing. They expressed concerns to Creagh and requested another debriefing where they could be present.

Creagh then scheduled another debriefing for Sept. 25. Stripling and Garner were both present at this meeting.

Garner said no minutes were taken from that meeting, and when asked about this, Creagh said it was an oversight.

Creagh said he emailed the people present at the debriefing and asked them to share what they heard at the meeting. He said Jack Burns, director of Campus Planning and Facilities, and Troy Cox, chief of Safety Services, were the only ones to respond.

Garner and Stripling both said they shared the events of the fire at the debriefing. They also shared their concerns following the fire.

Garner said her concerns were primarily about how students were unable to exit through the emergency doors. She was also concerned about the lack of emergency response after the fire alarm was pulled.

Garner said she thinks it was the worst way to have a learning experience.

“I think that this was an opportunity for us to kind of look at policy, procedure,” Garner said. “What can we do to make things better?”

Stripling’s concerns were similar to Garner’s. She said she had additional concerns about not being alerted to the alarm being on test mode and why there were no procedures related to debriefing. 

Stripling said she would have appreciated a heads up about the alarms being in test mode.

Stripling said they assumed a debriefing would be standard but was surprised when there wasn’t an immediate call for one.

“My other concern is that we do institute a real policy of debriefing,” Stripling said, “and that it’s taken seriously by the administration.”

Stripling said she thinks a debriefing should be held as soon as possible after an event.

“I would like to see a greater urgency toward these kinds of matters,” she said.