Christ Church risk student safety at bops

Fire safety regulations were ignored for five years

Source: Wikimedia Commons

For the last five years, Christ Church has failed to comply with its own fire safety regulations at bops.

The regulations, dating from 2012, limit the number of students allowed to attend events in the JCR where bops take place. They were introduced after a fire in Peckwater Quad in 2011.

The capacity limit of 130 people was not enforced until the final bop of Michaelmas 2017, when a ‘one in one out’ policy led to a large queue outside the JCR.

In an email seen by Cherwell, that was sent to JCR members during the vacation, Junior Censor Geraldine Johnson explained why the fire safety policy had suddenly been enforced.

She said she had been informed “very late in the day” about a regulation that “limited the JCR’s capacity to only 130, with up to 170 allowed exceptionally with a managed evacuation plan in place.”

She went on to say the regulations had existed “ever since the College Surveyor undertook a risk assessment following a serious fire in Peck in 2012.”

In a statement to Cherwell, the Dean of Christ Church, Martyn Percy, said: “We acknowledge that the failure to ensure that the fire regulations were widely understood beforehand was an unfortunate oversight.

“However, there is no evidence that conditions for students were unsafe at previous bops and, fortunately, no students have come to harm.”

One Christ Church student told Cherwell: “In previous years, you were allowed to bring as many guests as you liked. People just let their friends in at the gate. It was chaos.”

Another said: “I think it’s concerning that the college has flouted their own safety rules in the past, [they have] also compromised the trust between the college and its students.

“It’s good that this is now being taken more seriously in light of recent events.”

When asked why she and previous censors had not been made aware of the safety regulations, the Junior Censor told Cherwell: “Colleges are complicated organisations.

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“The Junior Censors are told to a certain extent about our responsibility towards fire safety, but we’re not the primary fire safety officers.”

She added: “I don’t think we’ve [previously] been massively exceeding the number limits in a way that would have caused serious fire risks.”

Johnson said it was only while in the process of checking the capacity of the Graduate Common Room for a private party earlier in Michaelmas term that she realised there might
be a capacity issue for the JCR.

The Dean said: “We take the safety of the whole college community extremely seriously. Once the Censors became aware of the need to limit numbers at bops, conditions
were reviewed.

“Over the Christmas vacation, the alarm system was upgraded and additional evacuation management procedures were put into place.

“The good news is that we can now increase the safe upper limit to 170 for bops, something we hope our students will welcome.”

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