UT sending message to students about exit strategy after Oakland warehouse fire

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Plastered on social media, the University of Texas at Austin wants students to be thinking about an exit strategy in case of an emergency. The alerts come after the deadly warehouse fire in Oakland where 36 people died over the weekend.

UT wants students to think about where the exits are located when going into and out of public places and buildings. “The way you came in might not be the way you can go out,” said Jimmy Johnson, UT’s Fire Marshal. “Whether you’re home, whether you’re out in a social setting, and whether you’re at school or work, look for two ways out.”  Johnson says your chance of surviving rests entirely on your ability to reach an unblocked exit.  He says don’t just look for the lighted exit signs, but windows too if you’re on the first floor.

Johnson says your chance of surviving rests entirely on your ability to reach an unblocked exit. He says don’t just look for the lighted exit signs, but pay attention to windows if you’re on the first floor.

The safety campaign was originally launched after a nightclub fire in Rhode Island more than a decade ago. One-hundred club-goers died when the band’s stage pyrotechnics ignited. After that incident, Texas’ State Fire Marshal’s office reviewed fire safety at nearly 200 nightclubs, bars and dance halls in a number of counties to see if any safety violations existed. The Fire Marshal found that 96 percent of the places had exit violations.

While some students admit that it’s not something they think about, other’s say they’ll make it a priority.

“I do think it’s important to know your surrounding and exits,” said graduate student Zach Warnken, “just never know what’s going to happen.”

With so many big events in Austin, the city formed a Public Assembly Code Enforcement team that focuses on enforcing safety rules when it comes to large events. During events like SXSW, the team visits various locations to make sure the venues have proper permits and that the venue is adhering to occupancy limits.