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'Stay Low and Go' 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 27, 2016) — A lit candle falls into a waste basket. In 10 seconds, the smell of smoke is spreading. Within 30, huge flames engulf a dorm room full of garbage and dirty clothes. In around two minutes, the room is fully engaged and the fire has reached “flashover,” the point at which the heat of a fire is so intense that everything around it will spontaneously combust. No one could survive a fire like this.

Luckily, this was just a simulation. The “dorm room” was a collection of furniture and waste arranged in a wooden structure no bigger than an average backyard shed, set up just in front of the University’s Entry Plaza. After three minutes, firefighters began dousing the flames with water. After five, the flames were extinguished, and the gathered crowd of students and faculty had learned a valuable lesson about fire safety.

This demonstration was organized by UAlbany, the Department of Residential Life, the Office of Fire Safety and Prevention and the Albany Fire Department. According to Carol Perrin, director of the residential life, the goal of the demonstration was to promote fire safety, both on campus and off, and to show both students and faculty how quickly a fire can get out of control.

Philip M. Chandler, from the Office of Fire Safety and Prevention, spoke to the gathered crowd over a loudspeaker as the flames grew. He emphasized how important it is to get out of a burning room or building quickly, before the fire reaches the flashover point.

“Stay low and go,” said Chandler, suggesting a new fire safety mantra. “Stop, drop and roll,” the fire safety phrase most people learn at a young age, is fine for when one’s clothes are on fire, but it’s insufficient when one needs to get out of a burning building. Better to “stay low,” where the air might be more breathable and the temperatures more survivable, and “go” — get out before the flames get too hot to survive.

“Every fire can be prevented in America,” said Chandler, and a demonstration like this ought to make people think twice before leaving a stove unattended, leaving debris on the floor or lighting a candle.

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