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Unpredictable alarms frustrate students, profs

Nov. 6, 1998

BY MATT MACVEIGH

Reporter

Matt_Macveigh@baylor.edu

For Baylor's growing population of handicapped students, limited access into and inside the university's buildings can cause quite a hassle.

Charlene Scott, a Corpus Christi junior, said a few of her friends are confined to wheelchairs. She also said many of the doors into and inside of Carroll Science Hall are too heavy for those in wheelchairs to open without help.

In addition, the unpredictable behavior of the fire alarms in Carroll Science Hall adds to the difficulties experienced by Baylor's handicapped students, as well as confusion in classes.

Dr. Gordon Grant, assistant professor of English, said the alarms go off 'every-once-in-awhile,' and it has happened twice this semester.

Another professor said he keeps his class in place because in the past, alarms have gone off repeatedly during the same period.

In the most recent occurrence, Scott happened to be in a restroom with her friend Krystal Cates, a Liberty Hill freshman, waiting to help her open the door to leave when the fire alarm went off.

Since Cates is confined to a wheelchair, she couldn't use the stairs to get out of the building and during a fire, use of elevators is prohibited. Scott said she offered to carry Cates down the stairs on her back, then return for the wheelchair.

Scott said that she realized two things after the event. Aside from not being able to get off of the second floor without assistance, in the event of a real fire, Cates wouldn't have even been able to get out of the restroom if someone hadn't been there to help.

According to Bill Frailey, president of Central Texas Security, Baylor has contracted with Central Texas Security for the past 12 years to maintain the fire alarms and smoke detectors around campus.

According to Frailey, the fire alarms in Carroll Science Hall are currently in the process of being replaced.

Frailey said that often a smoke detector will get clogged with dirt, causing it to go off unexpectedly, even if there is no smoke or fire present.

'We are checking the detectors to see how dirty they are; a lot of them are extremely dirty,' Frailey said.

Chief Jim Doak of the Baylor Department of Public Safety said that a number of detectors were at low limits of being acceptable; because of this, all of the detectors in the building will be changed.

'We're going to go ahead and do this right,' Doak said.

William McNair, the university environmental health and safety manager, said that Central Texas Security will have five or six workers at the university each week checking fire alarms to ensure they are working properly.

Scott said she not only worries for the handicapped students already here at Baylor, but also students in the future.

'We need to make the school more accessible for them,' Scott said.

Cates said that she 'gets stuck somewhere every single day,' and that it's something she has gotten used to.

'Baylor is really trying to work on handicap accessibility, but more needs to be done,' Cates said.

She said that her suggestions include: more push plates for automatic doors, lighter and easier-to-open bathroom doors and more wheelchair ramps.

Don Bagby, director of facilities management, said several steps have been taken to improve handicapped access around campus.

He said that this summer, automatic door openers were installed to many of the academic buildings and recently a wheelchair ramp was added to Pat Neff Hall. Additional handicapped seating is also proposed for Waco Hall.

Bagby said he wasn't familiar with the restroom door situation in Carroll Science Hall, but his department tries to take care of problems as soon as they are reported.

He said they will check the building's doors to see if the automatic closing arms can be loosened to make the doors easier to open.

Students experiencing problems concerning access to facilities and services around campus are urged to report the situation to the environmental health and safety office at 710-3461 or to the physical plant at 710-1361.

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