Campus News

June 21, 2010

Car fire response was team effort

When an emergency call goes out on campus, everyone responds, says Emory Police Chief Craig Watson.

At roughly 8:30 a.m. on June 14, the Emory Police Department received a call about a smoking car in the Starvine Parking Deck on Clairmont Campus.

Not long after the first call, another call was received reporting that the situation had changed to a fully involved car fire. The car, a 1999 Buick Regal, belonged to an Emory Healthcare employee. The cause of the fire was unknown.

In addition to police and DeKalb Fire, Facilities Management and Parking Services were involved. It’s standard protocol, but the situation was more than just getting a fire under control, says Watson. It was also a customer service incident.

“So many issues have to be addressed, especially in this particular incident,” he says.

It was Monday morning. Those coming to work needed a place to park. Parents were dropping their kids off at The Clifton School. Shuttles needed to run. Officers needed to be dispatched to handle traffic.

The teams swiftly responded. The deck was closed off temporarily. Employees were directed to the residential parking deck and parents were still able to access the road to walk their kids to the children’s center. And shuttle service continued.

Getting to the scene quickly enabled firefighters to easily contain the fire. And at the same time, members from parking services were able to get registration information from the cars so that by the time the fires were out, the owners were contacted. The fire from the smoking car had caused cosmetic damage to the surrounding cars, explains Bridget Steele Mourao, director of fire safety for Emory Police.

Mourao says DeKalb Fire Department happened to be close; across the street actually.

By roughly 11 a.m., the situation was completely under control. The damaged cars were being moved from the scene and the last police officers were leaving the scene.

“It really was a team effort; a community effort,” Watson said. “Everybody not only made sure the work they needed to get done was complete, but whether or not anyone else needed any assistance.”

It is one of the benefits, he says, of great working relationships within Emory and with the county.

Even though there was some damage to the concrete, the deck is structurally sound, reports Lisa Underwood, associate vice president of parking and transportation. Repairs should be done in less than a week.

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