After the Fire showing a solemn reminder of the importance of fire safety

Last night at 7:00 p.m. in the ICC auditorium, there was a showing of A True Story of Survival and Courage: After the Fire—a tragic, yet compelling documentary on the fire that ravaged a Seton Hall University freshmen dorm on January 9, 2000.

This documentary movie, written by Guio Verweyen, was put on by the Georgetown Office of Risk Management, along with the Georgetown University Student Association, to raise campus awareness of fire safety and prevention. Alvaro Llanos and Shawn Simons, the two most critically burned survivors of the fire and main characters in the film, were also present to discuss the impact that the incident had on their lives .

The Seton Hall University fire, which allegedly began as a prank, killed three and injured 58. The documentary recounts the frightening experience of Llanos and Simons as they were trapped in their dorm room that night. “Being 18 years old, not having any kind of fire safety, prevention, or education, was one of the scariest things I ever had to deal with in my life,” Simons said.

In addition to a lack of fire safety knowledge, one of the major causes of the injuries and deaths was the lack of action taken by students upon hearing the alarm. Alvaro explained that people merely assumed it was another false alarm since they had become such frequent occurences over the past few years. Unfortunately, this led many of the 600 students in his residence hall to remain in the building until it was too late. “I remember Shawn opening that door and the big cloud of smoke came into the room; we realized that it was the real deal,” he said.

The Friends of Rigby Foundation, established in October 2006, is a Georgetown organization that seeks to establish a network of financial support to educate college students on fire safety and prevention measures. It was formed after Daniel Rigby (MSB ’05) died in an off-campus fire here at Georgetown University. The primary objective of the foundation is to foster a connection between students and local firefighters as well as to provide such necessities as fire inspections, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers in off-campus homes.

Keep your eyes out on Thursday for a feature on campus safety and awareness at Georgetown. Results from the Voice’s online public safety survey will show you how prepared you and your fellow Hoyas are to respond in cases of emergency. The survey tests participants on various public safety issues, such as what to do if there is a shooter on campus or where to go during a fire drill.

Georgetown has certainly had its fair share of false alarms through the years; however, Vox stresses the importance of always erring on the side of caution and following safety procedures. “Our purpose of this presentation is not to scare anyone,” said Simons at the conclusion of the documentary screening. “But fire doesn’t discriminate.”

Photo: Marisa Hawley/Vox Populi

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