Story by Erik Potter

The fire got so hot that the television exploded with a loud, puncturing pop.

The assembled crowd gasped. “Whoa!” someone shouted.

The mock student room, outfitted with a bed, desk, rugs and posters and lit by a single flare, was completely engulfed in flame in less than three minutes.

The room burn, dubbed “Fire Factor,” was done by the Columbia Fire Department as part of Safe Mizzou’s Fire Factor and Pedestrian and Vehicle Education fair. There was also a rollover-crash simulator and free bicycle maintenance.

The object of the room burn was to get students to respect the fire alarms in their buildings. When they go off, leave now, warned Assistant Fire Marshall Jim Pasley, not later.

“I thought that was pretty short,” says Brennen Roehlke, a computer science sophomore from Columbia. “I was expecting it to take five to 10 minutes [to burn].”

Roehlke lives off campus and had come to take fire alarms with a grain of salt. “Most people don’t pay attention to fire alarms,” he says.“It’s whatever.”

La’Nae Stevenson, a freshman in pre-nursing from Kansas City, Missouri, says she’s rethinking her attitude toward alarms after seeing the demonstration. Previously she had been laid back when an alarm went off. “I’m going to throw my wig on first, brush my teeth, put on clothes,” she says.

Safe Mizzou Week is an annual event that educates students about how to make safe decisions with their health and well-being, including how to be prepared for emergencies, respond to active threats, keep their bicycles in repair and act when they witness interpersonal violence.