Some Simple Steps Can Keep College Students Safer From On-and Off-Campus Fires
The beginning of a new term means classes, homework, sports, friends, and parties. With such hectic lives, students often do not pay attention to one thing that could kill them, accidental fires. As a new semester begins, the Columbia Fire Department, reminds students to take action to protect themselves and their friends from fire.
Since 2000, 89 people have died as a result of on- and off-campus fires and hundreds more have been injured, according to the Center for Campus Fire Safety, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing campus-related fire issues. August and September are two of the deadliest months for these fires and almost 80% of the deaths take place in off-campus apartments or homes.
“Unfortunately, most college students do not realize how quickly a fire can occur,” said Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins. “When the first smoke alarm sounds you have less than three minutes to escape. Students need to realize that they are not invincible, that fires do happen in campus-related settings, and that they can take steps to protect themselves, no matter where they live.”
Common Factors in Student-Related Fires
Unfortunately, many fatal fires involving college students are preventable due to missing or disabled smoke alarms, careless disposal of smoking materials, and over consumption of alcohol.
Carelessly disposed of cigarettes are the leading causes of fatal fires in all residences, including rental properties where college students may live, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Students also can fall victim to fires started by open flames such as candles.
Studies show alcohol decreases inhibition and impairs judgment, which can increase a student’s risk of not waking to the sound of a smoke alarm and perhaps not surviving a fire. The NFPA also found that more than 60% of adults killed or injured in smoking-material residential fires were either asleep or possibly impaired by alcohol. In addition, the NFPA says that while most homes and apartments – including rental properties – have smoke alarms, nearly 40 percent don’t work, often due to dead or missing batteries.
How to Help Prevent Fires
The Columbia Fire Department urges parents and college students to remember these fire safety tips:
•Smoke alarms with non-replaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, a warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.
•Smoke alarms should be replaced after ten years. Smoke alarm should be place on each level of the home, one outside of each sleeping area, and one in each bedroom. Smoke alarms should be mounted on the ceiling or on the wall 6 to 12 inches from the ceiling.
•For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, replace batteries at least once a year. If the alarm chirps, replace only the battery.
•Test smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries as needed.
•Know two ways out of every building.
•Properly dispose of smoking materials in ashtrays.
•Use UL-listed extension cords and electrical appliances properly. Don’t overload electrical outlets.
•Never leave candles unattended and keep them away from items that could easily catch fire. Be sure to put out candles before going to bed.