SHSU University Hotel making adjustments after alarming fire report

The Sam Houston State University Hotel has fixed several fire hazards and are in the process of tending to the rest after they were discovered in a State Fire Marshal audit in February, according to Steve Shields, Director of Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management.

The University Hotel had nine fire safety problems that needed to be addressed, according to physical plant. Five of them have been fixed and the last two have been scheduled and funded.

One problem that has yet to be fixed is the fire alarm system. According to the report, the fire alarm system in the hotel is inadequate and does not have the required detection devices and alarm placement. The current alarm can’t be heard in all of the rooms, and there is no visual notification devices for the hearing impaired in the public areas. Also, the sprinkler system will not activate the building fire alarm upon activation.

“The fire alarm system operates just as it was designed and was installed many years ago,” Shiflet said. “It just does not meet today’s code.”

The remedy for this is to contact a state licensed fire alarm contractor to evaluate the building and install a complete fire detection and alarm system complying with the Life Safety Code.

“There will be a brand new, state-of-the-art fire alarm system installed by the end of the year,” Shiflet said.

According to an updated audit report, this problem will be fixed by Dec. 31 and will cost $99,950.

Another problem that hasn’t been fixed yet is the lack of self-closing devices installed in the doors separating the Criminal Justice building from the Hotel. This may lead to a potential fire to jump to the other building, the audit noted. This will be fixed by June 1, 2014, according to the updated audit.

The five problems that have been fixed where completed between the inspection in February and now.

One of the problems that State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy reported was that there was a large quantity of combustible items stored in the unfinished basement area of the hotel.

“The quantity of combustibility of the stored items may overwhelm to fire sprinkler system if a fire occurs,” the audit report stated, “placing occupant safety and structural stability at risk.”

This problem was fixed in April by moving the combustible items to a dumpster or to property to be sold in the auction they hold twice a year, according to Mark Shiflet, environmental health and safety coordinator.

“The storage problem was the result of inadequate storage areas,” Shiflet said.

The Hotel also had no emergency lighting installed in the north and south fire exit stairways. The audit report said persons using the stairs with the lights out could be at risk of injury and the lack of illumination will slow the evacuation of the building.

“Some of the findings were not problems at all- such as the emergency lighting in the stairwells,” Shiflet said. “Those lights are powered by an emergency generator.

There was no panic hardware installed on the exit door leading from the north stairway to the building exterior, according to the report.

“Panic hardware is required to permit exiting occupants to bypass any latch or locking mechanism installed upon an exit door,” the report said. “[This prevents] delay in exiting which could cause occupants to ‘pile up’ and jam the door close.”

Officials said that problem was fixed in May. The firefighting standpipe in the basement mechanical room was missing the adapter device that allows a fire hose to connect for water. This was fixed in April.

The mechanical rooms in the hotel had unsealed vertical penetrations for the passage of pipes. Those were addressed in April.

“Unsealed openings may permit fire, smoke and toxic gases produced by a fire to spread from floor to floor,” the report stated.

The fluorescent lighting fixtures in the unfinished basement were connected to outlets with long extension cords draped over piping; the safety department fixed this in April.

The last problem reported that has been fixed is the door separating the hotel laundry room from the north stairway exit foyer. It did not have a self-closing device. According to the report, a fire in the laundry room could produce heat and smoke that would block the path of occupants using the exit stairway. This was fixed in April as well.

Connealy also reported minor problems at White Hall, Belvin-Buchanan, Sam Houston Village, Gibbs Ranch House, the CJ center Dormitories, and Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Chi Omega, Sigma and Zeta sorority houses.

These have all been taken care of except for one in the CJ center dormitories. According to the report, the fire alarm system was “red tagged” for the second consecutive year. The impairments include all audiovisual alarm devices on the second floor didn’t work, smoke detection sensitivity testing failed, and the water flow detection service for the firefighting standpipe and hose cabinets indicate a trouble condition requiring repairs.

According to an updated audit report this is scheduled to be fixed by Aug. 31, 2014, and will cost $138,648.

Shiflet said that Connealy will be coming back to campus in November for a progress report.

Connealy was unable to be reached by press time.

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