How Campuses Can Prepare for Fire Emergencies

Here are tips to help colleges update their fire safety procedures to keep their students and campuses safe.

This is based on an article by Jennifer Koebele

It is time for college students to graduate from “Stop, Drop and Roll.”

With fire safety tactics evolving, colleges are updating their fire safety policies and procedures in order to keep students safe. Every campus across the country contains a safety department that enforces safety policies and inspections, along with buildings equipped with smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, and evacuation plans.

But while colleges are doing their part to protect its students, over 3,810 fires erupt in residence halls and in Greek housing each year, with a price tag of over 26 million dollars worth of property loss and damage. Though unintentional, fires are often ignited by students’ inattentiveness, misunderstanding and unawareness of fire hazards that can be caused on campus.

As a result, colleges are taking action to help students fight fires before they even start. The first steps lie in educating students on campus risk factors, the role of students’ and colleges’ responsibilities during an emergency, playing it safe in Greek housing and off-campus apartments, and practicing safety drills for students with disabilities.

The Spark: Knowing Where and How Safety Begins

Students can start reducing the risk for fires in academic buildings and labs.

To prevent injury in academic buildings, students should:

  • Identify two exits closest to them, as well as open evacuation routes
  • Know the location of the nearest fire alarm and know how to activate it
  • Never keep hall way doors open or lock fire exit doors
  • Keep corridors clear of flammable items to prevent rapid fire spread
  • Report damaged fire equipment to campus security

Classroom labs house a high risk of starting a fire due to the use of chemicals, electrical and mechanical heat sources. To prevent fire breakouts in a lab, students should:

  • Work with chemicals, electrical and mechanical heat sources under supervision
  • Follow the set procedures for conducting experiments and research
  • Never leave chemicals, electrical and mechanical heat sources unattended
  • Keep flammable materials away from heat sources

Taking Responsibility in the Residence Halls

While colleges provide ample means to prevent fires on campus, students play an equal role in keeping their campuses safe.

This is especially true for dormitories and Greek housing. Todd Sigle, Chief of Police at Davidson College says that most on-campus residence hall fires are often caused by unattended stove tops. If they are left unattended, these cooking tools are also hazardous because they aren’t equipped with temperature regulating technology.

Students can do their part by being careful and attentive while cooking in a dormitory or Greek house.

Other safety measures include:

  • Cooking in designated cooking areas
  • Keep all cooking areas clutter-free
  • Never leave a stove or cooking area unattended
  • If fires start in a microwave, unplug the unit and keep the door closed

Students can also keep living areas safe by abiding by campus rules, especially if they prohibit candles and only permit smoking in designated areas. If colleges do allow candles and smoking in dorms, students should:

  • Never leave candles or cigarettes unattended, and should extinguish them immediately after use
  • Never throw matches into a trash barrel or waste basket
  • Keep flames away from curtains, furniture and low-hanging linens
  • Never smoke while drinking, and check furniture for cigarette butts after a party (furniture is flammable)

Students should also be aware of items that are banned from dormitories, including:

  • Hot plates
  • Toaster ovens
  • Halogen lamps
  • Space heaters
  • Incense

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