ECU News Services

Greenville firefighters provide ECU students lessons in fire safety, by demonstrating how quickly fire spreads in a makeshift dorm room, during Pirate Safety Day Sept. 22. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Feel the burn
Pirate Safety Day shows students the perils of fire

By Karen Shugart

Pirate Safety Day offered students lessons in self-protection, self-awareness and even — in a sense — home décor.

“That’s why I’m never getting drapes,” observed Matt Cadmus, a first-year student from Harrisburg, as he watched flames engulf curtains in a makeshift dorm room.

The fire was a demonstration by Greenville Fire-Rescue, which set and quickly extinguished flames in two makeshift dorm rooms outside Mendenhall Student Center.

One room had sprinklers. One did not. Both were meant to give students a live demonstration of why they should plan how to deal with fire emergencies. No flammable materials were used to set the blaze, which was intended to mimic a fire that started in a wastebasket.

As the flames reached 1600 degrees in the room that lacked sprinklers, Battalion Chief D.L. Branch emphasized to students just how little time they have to escape a fire.

“The Greenville fire department is an excellent fire department. How long do you think it’s going to take us to get there? Five, 10 minutes? Maybe longer? Look at what’s happened in a minute and half!” Branch said during the demonstration outside Mendenhall Student Center on Sept. 22.

Students watched the display from behind yellow tape.

“It’s kind of scary to see how quickly you can lose everything,” said Liz Martin, a sophomore from Greensboro.

The demonstration was one of many Pirate Safety Day offerings. A crash simulator brought by the Greenville Police Department showed students the effect of a crash while traveling only 5 to 10 miles per hour. They could then imagine the impact of a higher-speed collision, said Officer S.L. Styron.

Students also were able to learn about Rape Aggression Defense training, sign up for ECU Alert!, and register their bikes with the ECU Police Department. Other campus and community organizations participating included ECU Counseling Center, Healthy Pirates, ECU Student Health and REAL Crisis Center.

The event was sponsored by the N.C. Department of Insurance’s Office of the State Fire Marshall, ECU Environmental Health and Safety, ECU Crime Prevention and the Student Government Association.

Christa Radford, safety manager for ECU, received a $1,000 grant from the N.C. Office of the State Fire Marshall for the event. She then invited the Greenville Fire Department and safety-oriented groups, such as Student Health Services, to participate.

“Rather than just focus on fire safety, I decided to branch out,” Radford said. “We’re hoping we’ll be able to continue it and make it an annual event.”


This story appeared originally in the Sept. 24, 2010 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at