Small residence hall fire sparks conversation of student safety

The MSU Police Department encourages everyone to lock their vehicles and utilize resources on the police department’s website.

The start of the semester brings reminders of safety protocols on and off Mississippi State University's campus. 

A discussion about residence hall safety began when a piece of the air conditioning unit caught fire on the fifth floor of the women's bathroom in Cresswell Hall on Aug. 15. As a result, unhealthy air quality in the building forced the fifth-floor residents to relocate to a nearby hotel for about a week.

Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt explained the fire was minimal but still caused inconveniences for the residents.

"There was a PCAC unit in the fifth-floor women's restroom that sparked. The damage was primarily smoke or soot. There wasn't a large fire," Hyatt said.

In years past, various residence halls have reported fires. Many of the fires were due to residents' misjudgments.

"We have had a fire started by candles. We have had a fire started by a cell phone plugged into a wall on a bed, so we have had numerous kinds of fires. Since I have been here the past seven years, there hasn't been another fire in Cresswell that I recall," Hyatt said.

Other than avoiding fires, students can remain safe in their residence halls by following advice by following advice from experts. Hyatt urged residents to be conscientious of their surroundings, especially at nighttime. She shared some simple tips students should follow.

"Be thoughtful when you are locking the door and when you are out of the room and not leaving your valuables in plain sight. If you are going somewhere, tell your roommate or someone on your floor, especially if you are going to be gone for more than a couple hours," Hyatt said.

Another way students can stay safe while living in a residence hall is walk with either a friend at night or utilize MSU's Safe Walk employees escort people on campus to their car or building.

MSU Police Department Crime Prevention Officer Corporal Chantel Solis-McCoy teaches students about crime prevention tactics. Solis-McCoy said the most common issues she sees are people not locking their cars, leading to an increase in automobile break-ins and stolen property.

Solis-McCoy described the strategies and technology the MSU Police Department uses to help students when an incident occurs.

"When it comes to different vehicle theft or burglary prevention, we do an initial report," Solis-McCoy said. "We have the student, faculty or staff provide us with all the items that were lost or stolen. Once we get all the information, then our investigators take over. We also have a license plate recognition software that is at every entrance and exit on campus that will help give an idea of when and where individuals are on campus."

Jordan Brock, a senior communication major, experienced vehicle theft last semester at her apartment.

"I lived at the Social Campus. I woke up and went down to get in my car for work. When I got to it, I noticed that my glove box was open, and there was stuff that had been taken out and left on my passenger seat. When I got in, I realized that the $250 I had in my console had been taken," Brock said.

Brock had filed a police report with the Starkville Police Department, but they never found the culprit. Brock continued to describe what she assumes happened.

"I had just gotten a new car, and I always press my lock button once and never really paid attention. I figured out I have to press my lock button three times for all of the doors to lock. Someone told me that people will just walk through apartment complexes and pull on people's doors, so I think they (the thief) did that, and my door was just unlocked," Brock said.

Solis-McCoy finished with her best advice to avoid theft.

"My best tip would be to fill out our property identification form that is on our website. Keep valuables out of your vehicle if possible and always carry a spare key," Solis-McCoy said.

Students and faculty can find the property identification form on the MSU police website, as well as additional safety tips.

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