With all of the preparations for college life, many parents and students forget about fire safety. However, firefighters respond to more than 3,000 fires in college residences a year. Fire safety is important for all students, whether they are living in dorms or in off-campus apartments. Many colleges have regulations about sprinklers and items in rooms, but students can forget the rules and off-campus housing can be beyond the reach of the school administration. Here is a checklist for students to keep their areas safe from fire dangers.
Fire Prevention Tips
- Make sure every room, especially sleeping areas, has a working smoke detector.
- Be careful of items such as candles and incense. Many colleges will not allow them in dorm rooms. If you are using candles, make sure they are not close to flammable materials, such as curtains.
- Be aware of possible exits in the case of fire. Walk the areas and practice the escape routes to learn where they are and where they go.
- Know your address. It sounds basic, but be sure you can guide emergency services to your location in the event of trouble. Program the location and identifying features (east of a certain building, for example) in your phone so you are ready if you need to call 911.
- Have your room keys available at all times.
- Consider learning more than one way to get out of your building in the event that one is blocked.
- Learn where fire alarm pulls are and how they operate.
- If your campus has fire drills, follow them and participate.
- In a high-rise building, have alternate ways to get out of your room if the hall is blocked.
- Be careful around extension cords — they should never be used in place of permanent wiring. Make sure cords are away from areas with a lot of walking to prevent them from being worn and damaged.
- Cooking in dorm rooms is one of the most common causes of fires. Be sure to check your university’s policy about what appliances are and are not allowed. Common items that are not allowed include hot plates, candles, space heaters, indoor grills (such as George Forman), and toaster ovens.
- Consider appliances with temperature regulation, such as microwaves and electric kettles.
- Pay attention when you are using any appliance. Avoid leaving any appliance on unless you are watching it.
- Be sure that you are not overloading power strips.
- Never prop open hallway doors or block/lock fire exit doors. Doing this can block ways out and trap people in the event of a fire.
- Having access to a fire extinguisher is a good step, but you also need to be able to use it. Review instructions periodically to avoid fumbling when you do need to use it.
- If you are in an apartment with a stovetop, keep the area clear of debris. Clean up spills, especially grease, right away to avoid a hazardous buildup.
- When cooking, keep long hair and sleeves away from any flame.
If There is a Fire
- Many people will try to put out a fire with water. However, never use water to put out a grease fire, as that can make the grease splatter and spread the flames. Instead, try to smother the fire with a pot lid, salt, or baking soda.
- If a fire occurs in a microwave, keep the door shut and unplug it.
- When using a fire extinguisher, aim for the bottom of a fire and move the nozzle in a side-to-side motion. Stand away from the flame to avoid spreading the fire.
- When you her a fire alarm, don’t ignore it. Grab your keys and identification (in case you have to leave for a while) and get out of the building as quickly as you can.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- When trying to get out of a room, feel the door with the back of your hand. If it’s hot, don’t go in.
- If you can’t get out of a room, block the crack of the door with a wet towel and call for help. If you can show a light out of the window or wave a brightly-colored cloth, do so to get outside help.
- As you are getting out of a building, look out for smoke. If there is smoke, try to stay low to the ground.
- Consider storing valuable documents in a fireproof safe
Stay Fire Safe
Fire safety is no light matter, even for college students. While fires are not totally unavoidable, preparing can lessen the risk. Make thinking about fire safety a priority for as you start your new life as a college student.