The Pitt News

SGB hosts bi-annual Safety Fair

Pitt’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety demonstrates proper fire extinguisher handling at SGB’s Fall Safety Fair Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Anas Dighriri | Staff Photographer)

Pitt’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety demonstrates proper fire extinguisher handling at SGB’s Fall Safety Fair Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Anas Dighriri | Staff Photographer)

Pitt’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety demonstrates proper fire extinguisher handling at SGB’s Fall Safety Fair Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Anas Dighriri | Staff Photographer)

By Ashley Priore and Janine Faust, The Pitt News Staff

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In a corner of the William Pitt Union Lawn, a small fire raged. Anameeka Singh hefted up the fire extinguisher she’d been handed and put it out with a gusty white cloud of liquid carbon dioxide.

“I was kind of terrified that I wasn’t going to do it right,” the sophomore neuroscience major said afterward. “It was actually fine. I was surprised.”

The WPU lawn was not actually ablaze  — Singh, a Resident Assistant at Sutherland West, was participating in mandatory fire safety training for RAs run by Pitt’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety at the 2018 Fall Safety Fair. Several other City and University groups turned out on Tuesday afternoon, including Healthy Ride, Pitt Police and OCC Pitt to educate members of the Pitt community about how to stay safe on campus and beyond. The event was hosted by the Student Government Board and the Office of Community and Governmental Relations.

Al Rizzo, Pitt’s Fire Safety Manager, said while his department’s fire extinguisher training exercise is mandatory for RAs and some classes, anyone could participate. The training exercise has been a staple at the Safety Fair for several years.

“I think anyone who goes to the live fire training really likes it,” Rizzo said. “When word gets out about it, people think it’s kinda neat to use an extinguisher.”

Kevin Caruso, a fire safety specialist and emergency preparedness coordinator at Pitt, said people always get something out of the fire extinguisher training exercises, from how to properly use an extinguisher to how to react to a real fire. This information hopefully carries on for the rest of the person’s life and encourages them to be more vigilant in regard to safety of themselves and those around them.

“What do you do in an actual emergency? You might think you know what to do,” he said. “But here’s an actual fire.”

The Pitt Police were also represented at the Safety Fair. Among them was Sgt. Mark Villasenor, who mentioned the recent installation of 60 surveillance cameras on Pitt’s campus as the most marked change in how the Pitt Police operates since last year. The cameras were installed by Pitt in partnership with UPMC and the Allegheny District Attorney’s Office earlier this month.

“The cameras generally will be a crime deterrent,” Villasenor said. “It’s just something we’ve never had before. These cameras expand to streets beyond those owned by the University.”


City and student organizations host tables at SGB’s Fall Safety Fair Tuesday. (Photo by Sarah Cutshall | Staff Photographer)


Organizations outside of the University were also represented. Anna Tang, a community organizer with nonprofit BikePGH, brought a wealth of materials with her to the Safety Fair, including maps of bike trails and lanes in the City, biking guides, safety tips and information about local biking groups. She said BikePGH wanted students to stay safe as residents of the City and as part of the biking population.

“I’m hoping [students] learn more about safety and feel safer on campus, whether that’s in general to doing things that take them outside of their campus life into the greater Pittsburgh area. That’s kind of what we provide,” she said. “If you don’t know how to get from point A to point B, you can feel really uncomfortable, but if you know where you’re going, then it seems less intimidating.”

Yasmeen Manyisha, the safety press officer for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 11, said PennDOT likewise wanted to remind students to stay safe beyond campus. Her organization’s aim at the fair was to remind students to be alert while living and traveling in busy, congested areas such as Oakland and to pay attention to their surroundings.

“Everyone wants to be safe,” she said. “No one wants to be hit by a car.”

PennDOT had information at its table to educate attendees about general road safety — including a demonstration using “impaired goggles,” which gives wearers the perspective of someone intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.

“That’s one way to get the message across,” Manyisha said. “If it’s hard for you to give someone a high five with these goggles on, imagine how difficult it is to get behind the wheel of a car and try to get home.”

Caroline Unger, chair of the Facilities, Transportation and Technology Committee for SGB, said in an email after the event she thought this year’s fair had a strong turnout because of the interactive stations, including the popular fire extinguisher demonstration.

“Turnout was great, largely due in part to some of the interactive presentations. The participation in the activities available were awesome,” she said in the email. “We noticed many students were drawn to the excitement of learning how to put out a real fire, and afterwards took a few minutes to check out some of the organizations present.”

After taking part in the fire extinguisher training, Singh said she still might “freak out” during an actual fire, but feels she’s a bit more prepared in case the real thing happens.

“I‘ve always seen a fire extinguisher in buildings and stuff and thought, ‘Oh, I’ll never have to use that,’” she said. “Now if there’s a situation, I’ll at least know something on how to handle it.”

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SGB hosts bi-annual Safety Fair