Off-campus housing -- a greater fire risk
LANSING- MI -- College students living away from home should take a few minutes to ensure that they are living in a fire safe environment as they start their academic year at Michigan colleges and universities, as Gov. Rick Snyder recently proclaimed September as Campus Fire Safety Month. Living off-campus poses particularly high fire risks that are preventable when young adults know and practice life-saving fire safety measures.
“Nationally, we’re seeing student fire fatalities occurring off-campus where there are no strict dormitory rules,” said State Fire Marshal Julie Secontine. “There’s a lack of control in off-campus housing with smoke alarms often missing or disabled, and often outdated electrical systems ill-equipped to handle the needs of today’s students. Students living off-campus for the first time often don’t know what makes a place safe to live, and the possibility of fire is the furthest from their minds.”
According to the U.S. Fire Administration:
• Since 2005, every college-related fatal fire has happened off-campus.
• Smoking was the leading cause of these fatal fires.
• In over half of the fires, smoke alarms were missing or disabled.
• In the vast majority of fires, alcohol was involved.
“If students are electing to live off-campus, I encourage students to take the time to make sure their rental unit is compliant with the safety tips listed below,” added Secontine. “The simple actions taken below can be a matter of life and death and should be taken very seriously.”
Fire safety tips for all college students living on- or off-campus:
• Make sure all sleeping rooms and living areas have working smoke alarms. For the best protection, all smoke alarms should be interconnected so that when one sounds, they all sound.
• Test smoke alarms monthly.
• Never remove batteries or disable a smoke alarm.
• Learn your building’s evacuation plan, practice it, and follow it.
• Know all emergency exits and have two ways out of a dorm, sorority or fraternity house, apartment building, movie theater or nightclub.
• Use stairs to get out, not elevators.
• Most fatal fires happen at night. Get up, get out and stay out.
• Don’t allow smoking inside a dorm room. NEVER smoke in bed.
• Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out. After a party, check for smoldering cigarette butts, especially under cushions.
• Never leave a lit candle unattended. Keep candles away from curtains, furniture, bedding and papers.
• Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Don’t use the stove or oven to help heat a cold dorm room or apartment.
• Keep a fire extinguisher close by and know how to use it.
• Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
• Stay in the kitchen while cooking.
• If a fire starts in a microwave, keep the door closed and unplug the unit.
• Use a surge protector for a computer and plug the protector directly into an outlet.
Common factors in campus fires include: lack of a fire sprinkler system; missing or disabled smoke alarms; careless smoking; unattended candles; overloaded electrical circuits and extension cords; alcohol consumption which impairs judgment and hampers fire evacuation efforts; and fires originating on upholstered furniture and decks or porches. According to the National Fire Protection Association, most fires started in the kitchen or cooking area with 86 percent of reported structure fires involving cooking equipment.
To read the U.S. Fire Administration’s report Campus Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings (2000-2015), go to: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/campus_fire_fatalities_report.pdf
For more information about fire safety go to the Bureau of Fire Services website at www.michigan.gov/bfs
This was printed in the November 13, 2016 - November 26, 2016 edition.