MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) – Fire alarms went off at a dormitory at Minnesota State University in Mankato last August.
Students rushed to evacuate, eagerly awaiting first responders.
But as the building emptied, Valerie Weber said she was left behind.
Weber said, “I feel like they don’t appreciate my life. I feel like they don’t want me here.
She was born with a rare condition that causes her bones to break easily.
It’s called osteogenesis imperfecta, and it requires him to use a wheelchair.
The graphic design student was only two weeks into her freshman year when the incident happened.
Weber recently moved into the dorms — in a room assigned to her by the university — on the second floor of Preska Residence Community.
Before the semester started, she was emailed MSU’s fire protocols for wheelchair users.
“Because during a fire you can’t use an elevator, can you?” So we make sure students go to a location on their floor and call our security dispatch,” added David Jones, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
When the alarms went off on Aug. 30, Weber said she followed the rules.
She said she made multiple calls to campus security, who picked up but offered no help, only to not return her subsequent calls.
The hallways continued to empty until she was alone in the lobby, left with nothing but the sound of alarms echoing.
Weber’s fear intensified as she waited for help, unsure of the extent of the emergency in her building.
Twenty minutes passed and no one came.
“I got more and more scared as the minutes went by because I don’t like loud noises and I don’t have earplugs or anything and also that no one was coming. C It’s kind of like that feeling of hopelessness,” Weber said.
Firefighters arrived later and the alarms were turned off. Weber was sent back to her room.
She told school officials what happened, but said her concerns were discredited and met with opposition.
“Nothing is really resolved. We had a meeting. It wasn’t very good,” Weber said. “I was gassed the whole time. They told me to take care of myself.
MSU said it worked with Weber to make several changes.
Jones added, “Working with her, we were able to refine some of our practices. In this particular case, we discovered that communication between one of our offices that told the student what to do was not relayed to our security office about what they should be able to do. . So we were able to clean that up, learn from that experience, and feel like we now have all the safety protocols in place.
But Weber said the school has yet to take any action and is concerned that it could find itself in the same situation again.
“It’s also scary to know that anytime, anywhere, I could be trapped,” Weber described. “And if people can’t find me where I live, how can I expect them to find me on the second level of the library, or Trafton or Armstrong Hall?”
Weber urges MSU to invest in increasing accessibility for people with disabilities around campus, starting with the dorms.
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