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Campus fire safety: A little knowledge could save lives

POSTED September 10, 2012 11:30 a.m.

Each year college and university students, on- and off-campus, experience hundreds of fire-related emergencies nationwide. There are several specific causes for fires on college campuses, including cooking, intentionally set fires, and open flame. Overall, most college-related fires are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention.
For most students, the last fire safety training they received was in grade school, but with new independence comes new responsibilities. It is important that both off-campus and on-campus students understand fire risks and know the preventative measures that could save their lives.
Safety Tips for Students
• Avoid using lighted candles!
• Do not leave candles unattended.
• Keep candles away from draperies and linens.
• Cook only where it is permitted.
• Keep your cooking area clean and uncluttered.
• If you use electric appliances, don't overload circuits.
• Never leave cooking unattended.
• If a fire starts in a microwave, keep the door closed and unplug the unit.
• If you smoke, smoke outside.
• Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
• After a party, check for cigarette butts, especially under cushions. Chairs and sofas catch on fire fast and burn fast.
• Be alert - don't smoke in bed! If you are sleepy or have been drinking, put your cigarette out first.
Escape Planning
• If you have to escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit.
• Before opening a door, feel the door. If it's hot, use your second way out.
• Use the stairs; never use an elevator during a fire.
• If you're trapped, call the fire department and tell them where you are. Seal your door with rags and signal from your window. Open windows slightly at the top and bottom; shut them if smoke rushes in from any direction.
• If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.

Off-Campus Fire Safety
According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are approximately 18,000,000 students enrolled in 4,100 colleges and universities across the country. Approximately two-thirds of the students live in off-campus housing.
There are five common factors in a number of these fires:
• Lack of automatic fire sprinklers
• Missing or disabled smoke alarms
• Careless disposal of smoking materials
• Impaired judgment from alcohol consumption
• Upholstered furniture fires on decks and porches
Source: Campus-Firewatch
On-Campus Fire Safety
In cases where fire fatalities have occurred on college campuses, alcohol was a factor. There is a strong link between alcohol and fire deaths. Alcohol abuse often impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts.
Many other factors contribute to the problem of dormitory housing fires including:
• Improper use of 911 notification systems delays emergency response.
• Student apathy is prevalent. Many are unaware that fire is a risk or threat in the environment.
• Evacuation efforts are hindered since fire alarms are often ignored.
• Building evacuations are delayed due to lack of preparation and preplanning.
• Vandalized and improperly maintained smoke alarms and fire alarm systems inhibit early detection of fires.
• Misuse of cooking appliances, overloaded electrical circuits, and extension cords increase the risk of fires.


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