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Fire Safety at SLAC and Beyond

Cellular phone towers don't usually affect firefighting, but they did on May 19 when a grass fire broke out near Region 12 and the SLAC Garden area. When people passing by SLAC first reported the fire and dialed 911, their cell phones were routed to the San Mateo County Dispatch instead of the Palo Alto Dispatch, which is responsible for emergency calls from SLAC.

SLAC sits near the border of these two districts, making it unclear where emergency cellular calls will be routed. As a result, it's important for anyone reporting an emergency to clearly identify their location and, if they're on the SLAC site, to inform the dispatcher that the Palo Alto Fire Department should be contacted. This avoids confusion and questions over jurisdiction between fire departments.

SLAC has received a notice from the National Interagency Fire Center that there is a higher danger of grass fires this year, making it especially important to remain diligent. A series of fires have occurred all over the state early in the year and it is a significant problem here at SLAC, according to Robert Reek, SLAC's Fire Marshal.

"We want to make people aware of the danger, to be cautious, and to know what to do in an emergency situation," said Reek.

Because of the elevated risk, please remember the following guidelines:

• do not smoke within 25 feet of dry grass areas and hillsides

• dispose used cigarettes and lighters in approved receptacles only

• make sure ash trays are cool before dumping

• keep hot work materials, such as welded or cut metal, away from grassy areas

• be aware of hazardous conditions

• if a fire is started or seen, call 9-911 and give the fire department complete details including what is burning and its exact location

Another major point, added Reek, is that most of SLAC's buildings do not need to be evacuated in the case of a wild fire. The only buildings that may need to be evacuated are portable buildings with grass near the base or buildings with large trees, especially eucalyptus, nearby. If in an open area outdoors, stay upwind and away from smoke. Either way, inside or out, always listen to instructions given from the fire department, security, and the SLAC Fire Marshal. Following their instructions is vital to everyone's safety and stopping the fire from spreading.

"SLAC can be a dangerous location for wild fires spreading off-grounds and we don't want to jeopardize surrounding areas," said Reek. "We also don't want off-grounds fires spreading here. Everything learned here at SLAC about fire safety and prevention can also be used at home."

Additional information is available for homeowner protection and summer fire safety.

If you have any questions regarding fire safety please call SLAC Fire Marshal Robert Reek at x4509 or Emergency Coordinator and Assistant Fire Marshal Ralph Kerwin at x2095.

—Ken Kingery, June 19, 2007

Above image: courtesy of Brian Sherin