Staff Editorial – Big game, big danger

Fire Safety. We know it’s not sexy.

But neither are socket-covers, seat-belts, or that flotation device underneath your seat on the airplane. The common thread. They can all save your life (Did we forget condoms? Don’t worry, those can save your life too). The point is that if we all take some begrudging precautions we’ll often avoid tragedy.

That’s why we at The Oswegonian were sad to hear about the chaos and confusion unleashed when a fire alarm went off at a little-known sporting event we all like to call hockey on Jan. 30. Maybe you’ve heard about it?

If you are one of the rare few in Oswego who is blindly unaware of what we’re talking about, allow us to fill you in. On the night of the Oswego State versus Plattsburgh hockey game, a hockey player’s glove was left on a hand-warmer in the player’s locker-room. The warmer was on. The magic combination of rising heat and flammable fabrics produced its never-fail conclusion: a small fire started. Luckily, that small fire was put out shortly after.

However, the story is in between those two events. Despite the fact that an endless amount of drills, from elementary school up to our residence hall-living days, have prepared us to move for the exits at the first ear-piercing screech of indoor sirens, that instinct failed miserably Saturday night. The countervailing desire for blood and sport is the same whether it’s at the Coliseum or the Campus Center Arena. When those alarms sounded, the bulk of the crowd stood still, many refusing to budge away from the spectacle in fear they would miss an unforgettable moment. It seems hockey is the limit of Pavlov.

It was reported that Campus Center workers manning the doors didn’t help much either. They didn’t move people to the exits; they actually seemed just as confused as some of the attendees.

Finally, after five minutes, most of the human herd saw reason (or at least self-interest) and allowed themselves to be goaded outside. There, they were met with a brisk Oswego breeze sprinting off Lake Ontario. Surely, some individual visitors were jarred, but in the debate between death by fire or ice, choices seem to be made en masse.

It was evident that those in charge, the administrators our parents leave their children with, did not have a plan for fire evacuation. At least not one that worked.

And you know what? We don’t have the answers either. Contrary to what may be popular belief, The Oswegonian does not keep a fire-safety expert on-staff. We just can’t afford it. So what we’re proposing is simply a review. Clearly we need fire safety plans that work, whatever that means. Like we said, we’re not the experts. Everyone in the Arena escaped tragedy Saturday night, but we may not be so lucky next time around.

What we can do is make a suggestion; ours is better staff training. When the people hired to staff the exits and control the crowd, are just as perplexed by lights and sirens as the average spectator, it should be a sign that it’s time to rethink how we train the ushers. The best antidote to confusion is when someone in charge looks decisive. It’s a sad reality that emergency should require a minimum of choice in action.