“The leading human factor contributing to injuries in residential building fires [is] being asleep” according to a 2008-2010 study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Can you imagine being suddenly awakened by a panicked voice yelling “FIRE” which is then interrupted by an unexpected crash? That’s what the residents of Rolling Green Apartment complex in Amherst, Massachusetts experienced on the morning of January 21, 2013.
At approximately 4:30AM residents of Rolling Green were jolted out of their slumber to evacuate their homes. A fire, ignited shortly before, began its unforgiving rampage as it tore through the apartment complex, taking the life of one student, and the prized possessions and peace of mind of many other students and families. At the end of the day, over 30 residents were displaced, including at least two families and 22 students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
As of February 15, the cause of the fire is still unknown and there is no exact date on which we can expect to know the cause. So without the reason behind their losses, those affected must work towards recovery. Displaced residents of the complex have been offered housing by Rolling Green in vacant Rolling Green apartments, as well students being offered temporary housing in dormitories by UMass.
While vast action was taken immediately after the fire occurred, the media coverage has since quickly died down. This is a common event for breaking news, but as a community it is important that we remember that this fire altered many lives and we need to continue to draw attention to it to ensure that measures will be taken to prevent such events in the future and to sympathize and aid those who need help now. By evaluating the steps that have been taken since the fire occurred over coming days, I think we can gain a better understanding of our emergency responses and how our community deals with tragic events and creative proactive measures.