EKU, Minger Foundation Launch Fire Safety Initiative

photo of demonstration burn

The first phase of an innovative national community service project aimed at improving fire awareness and safety was launched at Eastern Kentucky University on Monday, Sept. 26.

Gail Minger, founder of the Michael H. Minger Foundation, EKU President Doug Whitlock and other officials were on hand to kick off “Help Save A Life, Get on the Truck,” which pairs EKU students with Richmond Fire Department officers to engage the campus and community in projects that will enhance safety.

Minger, who lost her son, Michael, in a 1998 arson fire in a residence hall at Murray State University, sees the project as a way to “make a difference by working to minimize risks and save lives. We felt this was the perfect place” for the launch, and “we are pleased to join with EKU on this very important life-saving educational initiative.”

Immediately following a news conference to announce the partnership and a live simulation of a dorm room fire, a group of EKU students joined Richmond Fire Department officers to install smoke detectors in three off-campus student apartments. Many more such joint exercises at high-risk residences will take place in the near future, with a particular emphasis on helping those with disabilities.

“Our ultimate goal is to reach each and every student and give them the tools to protect themselves at school and to carry with them for the rest of their lives,” Minger said. “The more students we reach the safer our nation will be from the dangers of fire.”

Whitlock said EKU’s participation in the project “is altogether appropriate” because of the international reputation of its College of Justice & Safety, the University’s “Program of Distinction,” which includes degree programs in Fire Arson and Explosion Investigation,  Fire Protection Administration, and Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology, among many others.

“Ms. Minger has taken this tragic loss” and turned it into an “an opportunity to bring fire safety on college and university campuses to the forefront of public attention,” Whitlock said.

Representing Gov. Steve Beshear was Colmon Elridge, an EKU graduate now serving as executive assistant to the governor.

“We are Colonels here,” he said, “and Colonels lead. When we work together, we can do incredible things.”

Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes also spoke, and Richmond Fire Department Public Information Officer Corey Lewis provided narration for the demonstration burn on the plaza outside the Keen Johnson Building.

Now in its second year, the Michael H. Minger Foundation National Community Service Project coincides with National Campus Fire Safety Month. The project is funded by a Department of Homeland Security Fire Prevention and Safety Grant.

Mark Welker, executive director of public safety at EKU, said the project “is a positive mechanism for building partnerships between university, students and local fire departments to help better the community. In working with the local fire department, students have the opportunity to become fire and life safety educators and give back to the community. Students will also be able to take the learned fire prevention skills with them to help save lives and prevent injuries.”   

Published on September 26, 2011