Star Apartments holds successful evacuation drill

Submitted Photo: Dave Hazleton, left, and Steve Smith, at right, assist residents of the Herbert Star Apartments into a school bus as they were transported to safety at Brocton Central School, during a full scale evacuation still recently.

BROCTON — A passerby would’ve thought a big emergency was in progress driving past the Herbert Star Apartment complex in Brocton earlier this month. Instead, all 42 residents and their residence manager, Kathy Peters, participated in a successful, full-scale evacuation drill.

Meant to simulate an actual structure fire drill, residents exited their apartments and made their way to the community room so that an attendance could be taken and they waited for instructions from responding fire department personnel. As part of the drill process, each of the four wings of the complex had two residents assigned as hall monitors to actively assist in getting their neighbors out safely and in a timely manner.

Arlon Kozlowski and Sue Rees were two hall monitors who described their duties as they boarded a Brocton Central School bus bound for the school campus, where residents would be brought in case of an actual emergency for shelter.

“We haven’t had a full-scale drill like this since I’ve lived here, but we do routinely review fire safety and each of us has an emergency exit placard on our doors to outline how to evacuate. Each of us were assigned to check on and assist our neighbors with evacuating. If we did not get an answer, we posted a magnet on the door letting firefighters know how to proceed,” stated Kozlowski.

Rees noted that only one upstairs resident needed fire personnel assistance evacuating, and that she was glad to see everyone get out in a safe and timely manner. Following their return to the complex, a resident meeting was held to debrief with the first responders that attended from Portland, Stockton, Westfield, Fredonia and Forestville.

Brocton’s 2nd Battalion Coordinator, Rick Cole noted that the alarm was sounded at precisely 7:30 p.m. In a compressed amount of time, he called out his response at 7:32; followed by Brocton and Portland’s fire departments answering “en route” at 7:34. Another two-minute delay followed with Stockton and Fredonia’s departments answering at 7:36 and Westfield at 7:38 p.m.

“When you factor in even a compressed response time, the fact that the building was completely empty by 7:47 isn’t bad,” stated Cole.

Following the debriefing, residents and responders stayed for cookies and cider and complex manager, Kathy Peters added she was “very pleased” with how smoothly the mock evacuation went.

“I don’t think there’s anything we would change as far as our evacuation plan goes, but with about one quarter of our residents having some type of mobility issue, we always want to make sure that we’re stressing procedures for those that need assistance getting out or for those that couldn’t get down a flight of stairs.”

Peters noted that residents are counseled on emergency evacuation and fire safety practices upon intake and move in, that fire safety and emergency procedures are reviewed routinely throughout the year.

Kozlowski concluded that she was satisfied knowing she and her neighbors could safely evacuate, especially as she and Rees served as hall monitors for the drill. “That’s really a reflection on us too, that we were asked to help get our neighbors out safely in case of an actual fire.”