Home / Spring 2013 / 2013-02-28 / City fire codes prevent disaster off-campus

City fire codes prevent disaster off-campus

Written by Ben Skender


In October, an overloaded apartment building collapsed at an off-campus housing complex near Florida State University. Today, similar apartments are trying to figure out how to prevent such an occurrence from happening.

An email sent from Robert DeLong, director of environmental and occupational safety at VSU, discussed the fire codes and occupancy limit laws.

“A certificate of occupancy is issued at the completion of the Fire Marshal’s inspection of new constructed buildings,” DeLong said in the email. “This certificate states what the occupancy level is for that particular building.”

DeLong explained that occupancy limits are calculated through a mathematical formula and using different types of occupancies, and that his department keeps regular tabs on buildings.

“My department performs fire code inspections on all our buildings annually to ensure we are in compliance with all state and local codes,” DeLong said.

DeLong went on to explain that nothing serious has happened here at VSU.

“I know of no major incidents on our campus where the fire code has not been followed,” DeLong said.

Captain John Wisenbaker, Valdosta fire marshal, explained the purpose of fire codes, and why they exist.

“Fire codes exist so that the Fire Department’s job is not only easier, but that living spaces are safer in case of an emergency,” Wisenbaker said.

These fire codes include easy access to the property, well-maintained exits, checked and filled fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors in working order.

As fire marshal, Wisenbaker is charged with the role of inspecting a building to ensure it follows these codes.

At Jackson Square, an off-campus apartment complex, tenants are discouraged from hosting parties in their units, but rather are asked to hold these parties in the pool area.

“We have this rule not to take the fun out of being in college, but because many of our properties do not have clubhouses for social functions, other than the pool yard,” said Brenda Harrington, property manager of Metro Valdosta Properties, who owns Jackson Square.

These rules are abided on-campus as well, and VSU has their own rules regarding parties.

“If alcohol is present, there should be no more than 50 or more students,” Howard Doner, VSU police chief, said. “Our officers at that point may show up but only to ensure everyone’s safety.”

There have been no cases where injury has occurred because the codes were not followed, but all the halls safeguard against these incidents well.

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