USC Housing made changes to their security rules for overnight evacuations Wednesday, after a nearby fire left students stranded outside their dorms for nearly an hour this week.
The change was prompted by a slow evacuation re-entry in Cowlings and Ilium Residential College early that morning after smoke from a diesel fire at Los Angeles Fire Department Station 15 triggered USC fire alarms from across the street, according to Department of Public Safety Assistant Chief David Carlisle.
Daniel Moran, the senior associate director of USC Housing, wrote in an email to Annenberg Media that he recognized the inefficiency of the biometric scan process for full building evacuations.
"We always focus on the safety, security, and satisfaction of our residents, and always seek to find the best balance between the three," he wrote.
Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze and there were no resulting injuries or damages to the building, according to LAFD Public Service Officer Margaret Stewart.
After the fire was reported at 5:38 a.m., all students had to go through the official security checkpoint to re-enter into the building. With the overflow of students and delays, many were unable to get back into the building until approximately 45 minutes later, according to Carlisle.
"I thought [the re-entry] took way too long," said Kaitlyn King, a resident of Cowlings and Ilium Residential College. "We were towards the back and we were in line for about a hour. We didn't even get back into our dorm until after 7 a.m. and a lot of people were asking why they couldn't just check our IDs."
Moran said in the email Wednesday that changes were being made to ensure the safety of students during overnight emergency evacuations while improving the efficiency of the re-entry process.
"We appreciate your cooperation with building evacuations like the one that was triggered by the fire across the street this morning," Moran wrote. "We respect that your time is valuable and we want to make any unplanned evacuation as smooth and streamlined as is possible."
Working along with the Staff Pro security team, after a building is given an "all-clear" by authorities, USC Housing employees (Graduate Residential College/Community Coordinators and Residential College/Community Coordinators) will be responsible for identifying their residents.
In the future, once a student is identified by a residential assistant, they will not need to provide a fingerprint scan and will instead show their student ID card to re-enter their building.
The new protocol will not apply to students who don't have their student ID card, are unable to be recognized and verified by a ResED Staff members or those registered as guests. Instead, they will need to go through the official security checkpoint at the podium of each building lobby.
Prior to the announcement of the new protocol, Moran sent an email at 8:55 a.m. after the evacuation, explaining the situation and expressing his apologies for the inefficiencies.
"Once the nature of the fire emergency was clear and the go-ahead to re-enter the buildings occurred, you all experienced an unacceptable delay in the re-entry process," Moran wrote in the first email. "This will not happen again … I am sorry that you all had to deal with this so early in the morning and we promise to do better in the future."
So far, the new protocol only applies to USC Village residential buildings. The revision is being reviewed by Residential Education to be implemented to other USC Housing residential facilities, and may not apply to smaller buildings where the need is not as great, Moran said.