OU to remove Evans Hall fire escapes, review other buildings for safety
Casey Cooke coverage
• Evans Hall fire escapes removed after evaluation deems them unnecessary
• OU to remove Evans Hall fire escapes, review other buildings for safety, officials say
• Friends, family remember Casey Cooke for her smile, goofy personality
• OU student death determined to be due to blunt force trauma, official says
• OU student found dead early Sunday morning near Evans Hall
While few details are being released about the death of an OU student who fell from Evans Hall, a university official said two fire escapes at the campus building are being removed.
A review of all external fire escapes on campus was conducted Wednesday in consultation with the Norman Fire Department, said Brian Ellis, director of Facilities Management. The review was performed as a follow up to the death of zoology senior Casey Cooke, who fell off Evans Hall early Sunday morning.
Cooke's uncle, Don Cooke, said she frequently climbed the fire escape.
“With the incident that happened this week, we were concerned about the fire escapes,” Ellis said.
After evaluating the fire escapes at Evans Hall, it was determined they were no longer required, he said. This decision was made after considering the upgrades made to the interior of the building, in terms of alarms and fire sprinklers.
The university hopes the review will result in up-to-date safety measures, said Catherine Bishop, vice president of public affairs.
"The age and historic nature of many of our buildings, including Evans Hall, present complexities in fire safety implementation, and it is the university's hope that this analysis will provide additional options to advance safety interests," Bishop said in an email.
Bishop declined further comment.
The fire escapes have been in place since the original construction of Evans Hall in 1909, Ellis said.
Workers were removing lead paint from the fire escape on the east side of Evans Hall on Wednesday. This was performed to prepare the fixtures to be removed, Ellis said.
The removal of lead paint is a standard practice, Ellis said. To safely remove the fire escape, it will have to be cut into several pieces, so the paint was removed first to prevent lead particles from being released into the air or ground, he said.
Ellis said he was aware there were ways to get to the first level of the Evans Hall fire escape.
“Obviously it had been happening for some time, but we took action after the incident to secure the roof at Evans Hall,” Ellis said. “So no further unauthorized access to the roof will be permitted at Evans Hall.”
A sign posted underneath the fire escape stated that unauthorized use of the fire escape was not allowed, and punishable by a $750 fine, Ellis said.
Evaluation of the exterior fire escapes at Carnegie Hall and Monnet Hall is continuing, university spokesman Michael Nash said.
Cooke, 22, was discovered unresponsive early Sunday morning by OU staff on patrol near Evans Hall. She was later pronounced dead at the scene.
The state medical examiner ruled Cooke's death an accident and determined she had suffered fatal blunt force trauma to the chest and head. A toxicology report is still pending.
Tory Smith contributed to this report.