LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Michigan’s colleges and universities are inconsistent about practicing lockdowns and conducting other safety drills, according to a report published Tuesday following a two-month investigation.
Michigan State University in East Lansing drills its dormitories regularly, while the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor does so less, according to a report by Mlive.com. The type and number of drills vary widely at other schools around the state.
For Michigan schools with students in kindergarten through 12th grade, state law changed in 2006 to require six fire drills, two lockdown drills and two tornado drills. For colleges and universities, the requirement is eight fire drills and two tornado drills.
According to the Bureau of Fire Services, fire and tornado drills are required in college academic buildings, as well as dormitories and university-owned apartments.
At the University of Michigan, however, two fire drills were conducted in each of the school’s 18 dormitories last school year. Fewer were done the year before, according to information provided by school spokesman Rick Fitzgerald. The required number of tornado drills also was not done.
“While we understand the importance of fire drills, and have them in every residential facility and many of our academic buildings, our students don’t stay in one building all day,” Fitzgerald said. “Having a drill that’s specific to a building, and having that over and over, creates some muscle memory, if you will, in a K-12 district.
“Our students are all over the place and it’s different from day to day.”
Michigan State University spokesman Jason Cody said all eight fire and two tornado drills are conducted in campus dorms. Fire and tornado drills are also done in administrative and classroom buildings, though not necessarily to Bureau of Fire Services expectations.
At Saginaw Valley State University, Police Chief Ronald E. Trepkowski said eight fire drills are done in dorms each year and two campus-wide severe weather drills also are conducted. In addition, fire drills are done monthly in academic buildings, he said.
At Grand Valley State University, records show only one fire drill was conducted in several dorms for the entire 2011-12 school year. Some university-operated apartments had no drills. That also was the case for most academic and administrative buildings.
“Our interpretation is that we need to have a fire drill in the dormitories,” said Jim Bachmeier, vice president for finance and administration. “We’ve made sure that we have at least one per academic year.”
MLive.com’s investigation follows December’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn. On Monday, it reported that Michigan laws meant to improve safety at schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade are routinely ignored and state officials don’t know the scope of the problem.
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