When you’re growing up, fire safety is something you practice in school and your family takes care of at home. Your parents install smoke alarms and change the batteries; provide escape ladders; and create an escape plan. After all, you’re under their roof and keeping you safe is a top priority for them. Then, you leave home and may find yourself living with others in a dorm, apartment or shared house. You are subject to the safety habits of others and suddenly completely responsible for your own wellbeing. Commit a Minute to think about fire safety now, and if an emergency should arise, you’ll be prepared. Getting out of a fire safely isn’t about luck; it’s about practicing and planning ahead.
Fire is the fourth leading cause of accidental injuries in the United States. A residential fire occurs every 84 seconds in this country, and once burning, the size of a fire can double every 30 seconds. Fire departments respond to approximately 3,800 dorm fires each year and cooking is the leading cause of those fires. Overloaded electrical circuits and extension cords are also listed as common causes of campus fire emergencies. Nationwide, more than 40 percent of adult fire fatalities involve alcohol.
If a fire alarm should sound in your building, take it seriously. Student apathy is a major problem with quick and efficient evacuation. Take the time to learn the escape route in your building, the location and operation of the 9-1-1 alert system (if present) and the location of fire extinguishers. If a fire should occur in your building, get out as soon as possible. Do NOT try to act bravely or put it out yourself.
If you have an escape plan, put it into motion at the first signs of a fire. Never exit a door if it feels hot to the touch, you could walk right into flames. First, look at the door to see if smoke is present, touch it to test for warmth and close it immediately if smoke pours in when opened. Stay low while you exit to avoid smoke inhalation – more injuries are smoke-related than fire-related. Never re-enter a burning building; wait for fire fighters to arrive and assist you.
In community-living facilities such as residence halls, Greek housing or off-campus apartments, everyone must do their part to make their dwelling a safer place. Here are a few easy steps you can take to help prevent fire or electrical hazards:
- Take fire prevention seriously- identify at least two escape routes
from your room, learn your building’s emergency exits and don’t ignore
- Make sure that you can hear the smoke or fire alarm when your door is shut.
- Do not overload outlets by using multiple plug-extenders or
extension cords. Choose a certified, surge-protected power strip and
stick to recommended wattages.
- Check electrical wires and cords on appliances, tools, lamps, etc., to make sure they’re not worn or frayed.
- Never run electrical wires or extension cords under carpets or heavy items, and never bunch them up behind a hot appliance.
- Never “tack-up” an extension cord with staples or pins.
- Unplug appliances when not in use.
- If you’re in an apartment, have your building’s management install
smoke alarms — at least one on each level — and make sure they’re
maintained and tested regularly.
- Never cook in your room.
- Avoid using candles in your room.
- Look for the UL Mark on all electrical products.