The vision statement hoisted above the UNM Safety and Risk Services reception area sets an immediate tone. It simply reads: “To become the premier occupational Safety and Risk department and organizational model of superior quality and service in the eyes of our customers, stakeholders, and campus community.”
For the SRS Fire Safety squad, whose combined experience spans generations and multiple levels of safety service, they are words to live by.
“Safety is a continuous and dedicated focus for us in all areas of fire safety at UNM,” says Faron Valencia, the SRS Safety Specialist who oversees the department’s fire staff.
SRS has bolstered its fire safety program over the past several years, dialing in on organization and planning. New technology has also provided better reporting, self-sufficiency and is aiding SRS in the creation of new and better programs that maximize time and effort in and outside the office.
One such innovation—a software program called “Firebug”, which tracks location, use, and maintenance of fire extinguishers—leverages SRS manpower to help rapidly exchange or add equipment while keeping close tabs on an expansive inventory which totals more than 4,000 units across UNM.
According to Valencia, perhaps the most significant change in how SRS manages fire safety at UNM involves its use of data to support inspection and testing results which are often part and parcel of meeting important federal and state requirements.
The Clery Act, for instance, mandates detailed fire incident reporting at universities and colleges across America. Through regular collaboration with law enforcement, facilities managers and others, SRS Fire Safety compiles and delivers important statistics every year that help make student lives safer by identifying areas where improvements can be made.
SRS is also responsible for a laundry list of items running the gamut from guiding state code enforcement to meeting National Fire Prevention Association guidelines via fire alarm testing, fire sprinkler maintenance, safety training, and creating evacuation maps. And don’t forget annual fire drills at every building on campus (there are more than 400).
To keep stakeholders in the loop on all of this, SRS created several new fire-related committees to review programs, capital projects, reporting, and other important issues that often stretch all the way to UNM’s Board of Regents.
At the end of the day, no matter how complex their job has become, safety is the bottom line for the tight-knit SRS fire crew.
“The key to our success is teamwork,” says Valencia. “We seek to build and improve on that success, utilizing our resources effectively and working behind the scenes to keep the campus safe.”
Faron Valencia, safety specialist
Valencia joined SRS as a Safety Specialist in the fall of 2013, and currently oversees the fire safety staff. He holds a Master’s degree in Management through National American University and is currently active in an MBA program. A retired U.S. Marine, Valencia has earned campaign medals for service in Somalia, Desert Shield/Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Originally from Pecos, N.M., Valencia is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys playing bass guitar for a local rock band as well as spending quality time with his wife and children.
Bob Gardiner, fire safety specialist
Gardiner is a Fire Safety Specialist at SRS. He retired from the Phoenix Fire Department after 27 years of service, and then worked for the Yavapai Gaming Commission for 5 years before accepting his current position at UNM.
Martin Giron, fire safety specialist
Giron joined SRS as a Fire Safety Specialist in October 2014. A New Mexico native, he currently holds an Associates’ degree in Emergency Medical Services and is currently attending the University of New Mexico to obtain his Bachelor’s degree in Emergency Medical Services. Giron retired from the Bernalillo County Fire Department as a Battalion Commander after 25 years of service. The most important thing to him is family time with his wife, son, and daughters, who also currently attend UNM.
Louis Gonzales, fire suppression system technician
Gonzales joined SRS in February 2015 as a Fire Suppression Systems Tech. Louis worked with the Santa Fe Fire Department and retired after 22 years at the rank of Deputy Fire Chief. Louis worked at the New Mexico State Fire Marshalls’ Office for 10 years as a fire inspector, and with the Fire Support Services inspecting Fire Departments. He served in the Navy aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Constellation during the Vietnam War.
Douglas Peters, fire safety specialist
Peters is a Fire Safety Specialist at SRS. He retired from the Albuquerque Fire Department Fire Marshal’s Office in 2010 after serving as a Fire Inspector for 12 years. Before coming to UNM, he served in the private fire safety sector as a fire and life safety consultant. Peters also worked for the motion picture industry, as both a Fire Safety Advisor and Liaison between the filming industry and the Albuquerque Fire Department.
Kyle Duran, professional intern
A recent UNM graduate, Duran is currently a Professional Intern at SRS. He is very familiar with the UNM campus and assists with all SRS fire safety programs such as fire alarm testing, fire drills, and fire safety inspections.
Dennis Gonzales, student advanced level
Gonzales has been a member of the SRS team for the past 2 years. He assists with the Firebug program to help ensure that the University’s fire extinguishers are well maintained. An Albuquerque native, Gonzales is currently finishing his undergraduate degree in exercise physiology and plans to become a physical therapist. He has a passion for helping people and a love of the outdoors.
David Stager, student advanced level
Stager has been a member of the SRS team for about 2 years. He is currently studying nursing at UNM and likes to help people in any way possible. Stager enjoys all outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, and in the winter, snowboarding. Born and raised in Albuquerque, he plans to live in Colorado once he receives his degree.