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Major in fire safety at college

Sept. 18, 2017

Three students studying in a dorm room.
​Photo: A lot goes through a parent’s mind when their child starts college. One of those things should be campus fire safety.


You’ve left your “baby” – the one who fed you Cheerios from her high chair just yesterday, it seems – at college. You’ve thought of everything: Can she get to all her classes? Will she have time to eat? To study? Has she made some new friends? But there’s one more question to add to that list as your child settles in to her college career: Is she safe from campus fires?

From January 2000 to May 2015 in the United States, there were 85 fatal fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and off-campus housing, resulting in 118 fatalities — an average of approximately seven per school year. Smoking caused most of them – 29 percent – and alcohol was a factor in 76 percent of fatal campus fires.

Given that a lack of prevention and knowledge about fire safety is often a factor in campus fires, it’s important that your college student studies up on more than just academics. Here are some things to keep in mind about campus fire safety and prevention:

  • If you live off campus, make sure there is a smoke alarm in every bedroom and on every level of the house or apartment you live in.
  • Clean up immediately after parties and take trash outside – it can be flammable.
  • If you’re living on campus, find out whether your dorm is equipped with a fire-sprinkler system.
  • No matter where you’re living, identify two escape routes. Practice using them both when you’re awake and sober so that you can use them more easily when you’re not.
  • If a fire alarm sounds, just get out. Immediately. Don’t stop to grab any personal belongings. That paper on your laptop won’t be worth anything if you’re in the hospital for smoke inhalation.
  • It doesn’t matter whether you’re microwaving popcorn or cooking a five-course meal – stay with it. Most residential fires start in the kitchen when someone steps away from the stove or oven “just for a moment.”
  • Candles are great, but dangerous – especially when you’re not watching them. Stay with them and pay attention to them, or just blow them out.
  • It’s tempting to overload that socket with a fan, Christmas lights, your phone charger, and your computer cord – but that’s a great way to start a fire. Make sure circuit breakers are working, and report frayed or damaged wiring.

So making sure your college student has a great year is good – but making sure she comes home at the end of it is even better. These fire safety tips can help.