Shame on the Journal Star

October 19, 2005 at 2:22pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Journal Star printed an interesting letter to the editor this morning:

Saturday evening’s full-house performance of “Blast!” was interrupted by a fire evacuation after their first number. It seems the stage smoke effects set off the alarm system (although hardly the first time such effects have been used).

The staff is to be commended for the swift and orderly move of the 2,400 or so to the streets where all stood around for more than 20 minutes before two fire department trucks finally showed up. Any alarm from a public building should have resulted in an immediate and substantial response. I understand that only the fire department can reset the alarms.

While it was a false alarm, the slow fire department response reminded me of FEMA. Lincoln police were not even dispatched until the audience was returning to their seats. Many did not return at all. Mayor Coleen Seng, who attended this performance and did return, needs to investigate this serious breakdown in emergency procedures. This Lincoln fire and police response was pathetic and would have been disastrous had it been a real fire.

William R. Ramsay, Lincoln

That’s not good. That’s not good at all! Fire the fire chief! I demand an investigation! But wait, what’s this?

More than a thousand people — including the mayor — evacuated the Lied Center Saturday night after the smoke machine used during the first number of the “Blast!” performance set off a fire alarm.

The drum and bugle corps production was interrupted by an alarm and repeated intercom warnings to “proceed to the nearest exit, there is a fire in the building.”

The audience evacuated the building safel

y and was left to stand outside for some 15 minutes, waiting for firefighters to show up and wondering what was taking them so long.

Fire Chief Mike Spadt said a university operator was alerted but did not notify the Fire Department. Instead, a maintenance person was contacted.

Meanwhile, an off-duty firefighter in the audience called the department.

Once the Fire Department was alerted, firefighters arrived within 40 seconds, Spadt said.

Spadt said he has asked the Lied to discontinue the practice of not calling the department and engaged the state fire marshal to help make sure “it never happens again.”

Doesn’t the Journal Star read its own articles? Wouldn’t it have been appropriate for the LJS to either: a) not run such a misleading letter, or b) include an editor’s note saying “Hey, go check out our other article that explains what really happened”? A lot of newspaper readers go straight to the letters to the editor. All of those readers who did not also read Deena Winter’s article exonerating the fire department will now be angry at the LFD for something that is clearly not its fault.

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The Comments

Cedric October 20, 2005 at 7:32am

I wrote a letter to the editor regarding Mr. Ramsey’s letter, basically stating that he was being alarmist. Most theater/traveling companies have trained people to talk to Police, FD, and EMS if something happens. Errant SFX, occaisionaly injuries while putting up or striking the set- it happens. If the Lied didnt have someone on staff trained for it, the performers probably did. No big deal, nothing to see here.

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