A $3.5 million expansion of Eastern Kentucky University’s Ashland Inc. Fire and Safety Laboratory is now complete.
EKU President Michael Benson and College of Justice & Safety Dean Vic Kappeler were joined by faculty, students, staff and friends as they celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony and tours of the newly expanded facility on Wednesday, January 13.
Prior to the expansion, conditions for students were cramped. “We were at about 110 percent capacity for used lab space,” said Corey Hanks, with EKU’s Department of Fire Protection and Para-Medicine Sciences and a member of the construction management team. Two new labs, one for special hazards and one instructional lab, will allow current lab space to be used more efficiently and permit greater flexibility.
Dr. Greg Gorbett, associate professor and fire protection & safety engineering technology coordinator, said the expansion will “better prepare fire science students for the job market by exposing them to the proper methodology for conducting fire research and newer technology.”
The expansion doubles the size of Ashland facility, which opened in 1995. “This much needed expansion was in response to the student population in the fire sciences at the College quadrupling in size over the same period,” said Gorbett.
“The fire program in this time expanded to three degrees (Fire Protection Administration; Fire, Arson & Explosion Investigation; and Fire Protection & Safety Engineering Technology) and successfully transitioned the offering of these degrees to online to better serve the working professional,” said Gorbett. “All three degrees have received external accreditation demonstrating the excellence of the fire programs. The success of the program is evident in its international reputation and successful alumni around the world. The impact that each of our alumni have had on influencing the safety within their communities around the world is immeasurable.”
The expansion will also provide a better location to perform additional undergraduate and graduate research, reinforce student learning outcomes by allowing more demonstrations to be conducted within the building and better enable the fire science programs to meet the high standards required by external accrediting bodies.
According to Gorbett, the expansion “provides a home for our students and faculty to collaborate more and strengthen our sense of community. Additionally, this will allow us to further develop our current research efforts and expand into areas of research that address various problems associated with fire protection engineering technology, fire and explosion investigations, and fire service.”
In addition to providing better learning opportunities for online and on-campus students, the expansion will provide the necessary facilities to host seminars for professional associations and companies, offer labs to outside organizations like insurance companies and other agencies, help provide the latest technology and instruction to improve and support education for fire-related fields, expose students to potential employers and professional contacts and expand EKU’s outreach to the community.
The Ashland Building was purposefully designed to serve as a teaching tool, with the exposure of all utilities to “better demonstrate the proper placement of systems found in the built environment.”