Safety Officials Gather to Urge College Students to Focus on Fire Safety

Published: August 21, 2007

BOSTON – Three organizations gathered together Aug. 21 to remind college students and their parents to be aware of fire risks associated with student housing. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the United State Fire Administration (USFA), shared information from a report released by NFPA and urged students and their parents to brush up on fire prevention and safety.

Tragically, thousands of fires occur each year in on-campus and off-campus housing. As college students move into housing in the coming days and weeks, NFPA urges students and their parents to be mindful of fire prevention and safety.

While many parents have educated their children about home fire safety, it is equally important for parents to remind them how to keep themselves safe from fire while living at school. Whether students are living on-campus or in off-campus housing, it is important for these young adults to take an active role in fire prevention and safety.

The report also showed that most deaths that occurred in dormitories were from fires that started in the bedroom. Food or cooking materials were likely to be the items to be first ignited in fires. And fires were found to be more common between 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. and on weekends.

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Cooking was the leading cause of fires and involved in 72 percent of fires in fires in dormitories, fraternities and sororities. But smoking-related fires were responsible for the most deaths and injuries in these occupancies with 40 percent of fire deaths attributed to smoking materials. Fires involving candles were found to be the second leading cause of fire deaths, responsible for 20 percent of the fire deaths in these occupancies.

For more information and safety tips, visit NFPA’s fact sheet on campus safety at

NFPA offers the following safety tips for campus fire safety:

Be prepared for a fire

  • Your building should have an evacuation plan. Learn it and participate in all fire drills.
  • If you hear an alarm, leave immediately. Close doors behind you as you go. Take room keys; if you can’t escape, you may have to return to your room.
  • If you have a disability, make sure you are included in the escape planning for your classroom area and housing.
  • Learn the location of all building exits. You may have to find your way out in the dark.
  • Make sure your building has smoke alarms. Do not disable them or remove batteries.
  • The best protection is a building with a fire sprinkler system.
  • Don’t hang anything from fire sprinkler pipes or nozzles.
  • Keep a flashlight handy.

Escape tips

  • 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, but close 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.


  • If you must smoke, only smoke outside the building and only where it’s permitted.
  • Use deep, wide, sturdy ashtrays. Ashtrays should be set on something that is sturdy and hard to ignite.
  • It’s risky to smoke when you’ve been drinking or when you’re drowsy.
  • Don’t smoke in bed.
  • Soak cigarettes before you empty ashtrays.
  • After a party, check furniture and cushions for smoldering butts.


  • Cook only where it’s permitted.
  • If you use a kitchen, keep it clean and uncluttered.
  • If you use electric appliances, don’t overload circuits.
  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • If a fire starts in a microwave oven, keep the door closed and unplug the unit.
  • Check with your school or for off-campus housing, your local fire department, before using a grill.
  • Gas and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors.
  • Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area: declare a three-foot “kid-free zone” around the grill.
  • Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when flipping burgers.
  • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.


  • Don’t burn candles.


  • Check your school’s rules before using electrical appliances in your room.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet.
  • Don’t pinch cords against walls or furniture or run them under carpets. Never tack or nail cords.
  • Don’t overload your wiring.
  • Buy only appliances that have the label of an independent testing lab.
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture. Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn.


NFPA press release

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