LC Hires A Fire Expert

Sara Severens ~ Staff Writer

Officer Michael Thomas is a new face Lynchburg College students will be seeing around campus.

He joined the Campus Safety and Security Department as a regular part-time officer back in November 2016. Born and raised in Madison Heights, Thomas has always told longtime friend Bob Driskill, director of Campus Safety and Security, that he wanted to work for LC. They met when Thomas worked in the Fire Marshall’s office and did inspections for LC.

Thomas always told Driskill he wanted to work for him when he got close to retirement. With two years and 25 days until he retires, he decided now would be the opportune time to fulfill that promise.

In addition to working as a safety and security officer here at LC, Thomas also serves as the battalion chief for the Lynchburg Fire Department. He responds whenever multiple incidents occur in the area and directs firefighters where to go as their incident commander.

Students will see Thomas performing all the duties of a safety and security officer, including helping students and staff get fingerprinted and go through background checks, participating in patrol and training new officers.

What is unique about Thomas’ hiring is his experience as a fire investigator. He will be assisting Driskill in performing building and safety equipment inspections in an effort to make students, faculty and staff safer.

Safety and security officers at LC have many roles on campus. Last semester alone, officers responded to 12,475 calls for service. They issued 300 parking tickets and 23 trespass notices, registered 466 guests, assisted with 40 LCEMS calls, provided 2,257 escorts and let 553 students into their rooms.

In addition to being longtime friends with Driskill, Thomas also has another special connection to LC. His wife graduated from LC with two degrees, both in business.

Thomas went to Averett University. The couple has two children, an 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, and Thomas’ wife works as the deputy clerk of council for the City of Lynchburg.

Thomas is a certified expert in fire investigation in the Circuit, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts. He speaks enthusiastically when he talks about putting together the pieces of how a fire burns down a structure.

Fires are classified in four ways: electrical, accidental, incendiary or undetermined. There was even a fire at LC fairly recently in 2009.

“Fire is a science … fire burns in a pattern,” Thomas said when asked about fire investigation work.

When asked how LC students can be safer on campus, Thomas’ number one piece of advice was not to be complacent. He said it’s easy to get into a routine, and trouble happens when people are not aware of their surroundings.

Thomas talks about the details students can miss when they fall into a habit. It is easy to forget other exits in a building when a student comes in and out the same door every day.

One of LC’s number one reasons the fire alarm goes off is because of cooking. He warns students to always stay with their food when cooking on the stove. Most importantly, Thomas says to be accountable for your friends.

“Life safety is prime number one for us. We’re going to send people in to search,” Thomas says about the first step when firefighters arrive on campus

It helps firefighters when students are able to inform them that all their housemates or roommates are accounted for. They are first and foremost responsible for keeping everyone safe.