UC-Boulder Expert Talks Fire Safety

BOULDER, Colo. – In the midst of new construction, building renovations and the hours of basic maintenance needed to keep a campus looking top-notch, preventing fire hazards sometimes risks getting pushed to the back of an administration’s mind – a serious mistake, according to one expert.

Last June, Mansour Alipour-fard of the University of Colorado-Boulder released a six-page report exposing the numerous fire hazards on America’s college campuses along with advice for how to eliminate them.

For universities, the biggest dangers may be off-campus. Eighty percent of all campus-related fire deaths occur in off-campus houses or apartments. However, this does not mean the school is off the hook – with nearly two-thirds of college students living off campus, parents may not want to send their children to a college with fire fatalities on its record.

Greek housing, particularly fraternities, and to a lesser extent residential halls, pose another significant threat. Laboratories can be hot spots for fires if not properly supervised. Alipour-fard’s advice to lab instructors includes reducing clutter, keeping flammable materials away from heat sources, and never leaving experiments unattended.

Many colleges also have buildings built decades ago that may not comply with current safety codes. Although the cost of upgrading can be astronomical, federal funding is available for disaster planning. Fire sprinklers, common at UC-Boulder, can help protect buildings whose interior designs don’t quite match up to today’s safety standards.

Finally, running routine inspections and drills is crucial to making sure the technology in place is reliable. Ensuring that electronic data remains protected is paramount so that if a crisis does occur, the campus can still function properly.

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