Fire safety inspections improved

This year, nine of 23 residential fraternities passed inspections

JORDAN KERCHEVAL, Evergreen reporter

There has been a positive trend in the annual fire inspections performed at the 23 WSU fraternities, according to a news release from the Pullman Fire Department.

In previous years, it was rare for a fraternity to pass an inspection on the first visit of an annual fire inspection, and scheduled appointments were frequently forgotten.

After the first round of inspections in the 2016 fall semester, five of 23 fraternities passed on the first try. After repeating the process in the 2017 fall semester, the number of passing fraternities increased to nine, according to the news release.

Fire Marshal Chris Wehrung, hired in 2015, said he wanted to help improve the inspection process, and took a more proactive approach than the department has in previous years.

The biggest reasons for failing an inspection were propped open fire doors, extension cord violations, uncleaned kitchen ventilation and unchecked alarms and sprinkler systems, Wehrung said.

In the past, fraternities have not been aware of when the inspection was going to occur, he said. At the beginning of the 2016 semester, Wehrung met with Interfraternity Council leaders and house representatives. The meeting allowed members to sign up for inspection dates, and highlighted common violations, as well as offered early assistance to any house.

The new process increases overall safety and awareness for students living in the houses, Wehrung said.

“It allows the elected members in the house to all understand the importance of it. They try to maintain the house in a safe fashion now,” Wehrung said. “They are ultimately responsible for the safety and well-being of the members in the house, and they are starting to understand that.”

Mitchell Weholt, director of public relations for the Interfraternity Council, said having in-person meetings with representatives from the fire department has been helpful in improving the success rate of the inspections.

“It really comes down to knowing expectations,” Weholt said. “You can look up the fire code, but it’s a lot easier for someone to come out and explain what they’re looking for.”

Wehrung said many fraternities are hiring housing management companies to maintain the facilities, and that is another reason for the recent improvements. Having a management company means the students can hand over the responsibility of maintenance issues and improvements.

To continue improving, fraternities on campus should maintain their recent progress, Wehrung said.

“I think the improvements we have made over the past two years have shown that they are starting to understand that we need to make things safe for everybody,” Wehrung said. “They’re starting to understand that it’s their responsibility also.”