Fire Safety on College Campuses

A local firefighter offers fire safety tips for college students, plus information on how to react if a fire breaks out in the dorm.

As kids, fire safety tips include learning how to “Stop, Drop and Roll.” In elementary, middle and high school, they’ll have regular fire drills, but what about fire safety on college campuses like Eastern Michigan University where a fire broke out in the dorms earlier this year?

Students should take it upon themselves to learn how to be safe in a dorm, and in the case of a fire, know what to do. Parents should make sure that their students know the general evacuation plan for their building, as well.

Here, Brian Kensicki, a firefighter with the Sterling Heights Fire Department, shares some fire safety tips for college students.

How to prevent a fire

Some of the most important things to remember, Kensicki says, are:

  • Don’t let candles or incense burn unattended
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets
  • Don’t cover up exit signs

Cooking equipment causes the majority of dorm fires, so for those with kitchens or hot plates, don’t forget to take the necessary precautions to prevent a fire. Unplug heating elements when not in use and turn off the stove or oven.

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Get to know your building, too.

“You should familiarize yourself with the building’s plan in case of an actual emergency,” says Kensicki.

Though it may seem best to get out of the building in case of fire, every college and dorm is different and may have a different emergency plan.

“Some plans might call for you to stay put in your room with the door closed until directed otherwise,” Kensicki says. “Others might call for you to go outside immediately, therefore it is important for you to know what to do.”

Where can you find that information? Many times, the information is available on your college’s website. For example, the University of Michigan provides its plan here.

According to the National Fire Protection Association most dorm fires occur between 5 and 11 p.m. and on weekends, so be aware of your surroundings and practice fire safety precautions.

Many campuses are also smoke free, but for those that aren’t, smokers should smoke only in designated outdoor areas and use a stable ashtray the NFPA notes.

Another major factor, according to NFPA, is exhaustion. Students shouldn’t cook or burn candles while drowsy or intoxicated. Students should be alert enough to prevent and react to a fire in a prompt manner.

What to do if there is a fire

Still, accidents happen. So, then what do you do?

If the fire starts elsewhere in the building, such as a different dorm room or a communal area, students should follow building procedure. If the procedure is to get outside, do so calmly.

If the procedure is to stay put until further notice, close the door and wait until someone tells you to leave the building.

However, sometimes the fire starts in the room a student is in. In this case, Kensicki says to call 911 immediately, leave the room and close the door, and trigger a fire alarm on the way out to let the rest of the building know.

Some dorm buildings may have fire drills, and it is important to practice them in case of a real emergency.

If the student lives off campus, make sure the building has two exits and has working smoke detectors. Don’t forget to test the detectors, as well.

Remember to talk to your students about their college’s fire plans and about fire safety to best prevent a fire emergency.

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