For students living in the residence halls, it may come as a surprise to hear that resident assistants are not responsible for getting their residents out of the building during an emergency.
The responsibility of the resident assistant during these drills is to be a resource for residents. During these situations, students are expected to get themselves to safety and not depend on their resident assistant to do it for them.
“RAs are not expected to check every room, knock on every door, anything like that because that would actually put them in danger,” said Susan Taylor-Johnson, residence director at Colorado State University. “When a fire alarm goes off, their first responsibility is to exit the building as well. They are information gatherers, not first responders.”
Terrence Harris, senior studying health and human sciences and returning resident assistant, believes that students do not take emergency drills and precautions seriously enough. Lack of participation is one of the biggest safety concerns in the residence halls.
“In a lot of places it is actually against the law to ignore a fire alarm because you really are putting firefighters’ lives at risk,” Taylor-Johnson said. “I think it’s super important for residents to know that if they feel like they don’t know what to do when an alarm goes off, to ask someone.”
While resident assistants are also students responsible for their own safety, they are trained to inform students of emergency procedure. Taylor-Johnson believes RAs make a great resource if a student is unaware of emergency exits in their building.
Veronica Olivas, safety coordinator for Housing and Dining Services, discussed a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, which determined that the majority of people will try to exit a building at the same door they entered. Therefore, people do not always use the nearest exit.
“We always emphasize being aware of two ways out of the building and using the nearest exit – we ask that the RAs provide information to their floor mates and encourage them to a ‘culture of safety’ on their floor,” Olivas stated in an email to the Collegian.
Collegian Reporter Danielle Jauregui can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danij27.