The USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning is expanding its presence to The Row by offering fire safety drills and promoting fire education to university and non-university-owned Greek houses.
Jeff Pendley, USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning specialist, said drills and walk-throughs will begin as early as next week.
In the past, fire safety checks for residential housing were under the jurisdiction of Environmental Health and Safety, but responsibility has been turned over to Fire and Safety because the department now has sufficient resources to do so.
Pendley said his department had always wanted to reach out to The Row to officially ensure proper safety procedures are being followed, but did not have enough resources to ensure they would be able to offer adequate services.
Both USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning and Environmental Health and Safety fall under USC Career and Protective Services, along with departments such as the Dept. of Public Safety, Disability Benefits, and Risk Management & Insurance Services.
Pendley said this was the start of his department offering its expertise so safety procedures would be improved.
“We want to make sure [the houses] have adequate fire extinguishers. Even though we cannot force regulations upon non-university houses, we can make recommendations,” Pendley said. “We are working on doing that this year.”
Many Greek houses on The Row welcome the initiative, and fraternity and sorority presidents said they appreciate USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning reaching out to them. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity President Naader Banki, a fifth year senior majoring in biological anthropology, said the program will stress the importance of fire safety to the Greek community.
“This initiative is effective and beneficial because it introduces the idea that fire is a real threat and should be considered realistically,” Banki said. “The idea that presidents [of houses] are aware promotes better safety. It is an excellent first step that will lead to more involvement between houses on The Row and [USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning].”
Banki stresses the importance of fire safety since Phi Delta Theta’s fraternity house burned down eight years ago. He has already spoken with USC Fire and Safety and recognizes the importance of their inspections.
“Our house has one of the best fire systems,” Banki said. “[USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning] contacted us at the beginning of the semester, giving us the option to come in and help with a fire drill,” Banki said.
Other houses have not yet worked with USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning but have set a date to meet with the department to administer fire drills this semester.
Gamma Phi Beta Sorority President Tess Atkinson, a senior majoring in business and psychology, said the house manager previously coordinated drills.
“We have one [a fire drill] scheduled for this semester,” Atkinson said. “Fire safety is a huge priority for us since we have sixty girls living in the house. For USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning to partner with us, it will give us more tools that could help us.”
USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning said it plans to assist at least six houses by the end of the semester as a preliminary goal. It also plans, however, to offer its services to all houses by the end of the semester.
“We will help as much as they want us to,” Pendley said. “We can offer our services and most of them are open to have us come in and do that.”