Fire Safety in Your Dorm

Posted in blog on October 11, 2016

When you think of fire-related accidents, you may imagine explosions or arson. While these events can happen, most fire-related injuries occur right in the home. Fires can occur anytime, anyplace. You and your peers may not understand proper fire safety and be prone to putting yourself at risk. Some students may even tamper with smoke detectors. Master proper fire safety in your dorm to avoid causing a deadly blaze this semester.

Dorm Fires By the Numbers

From 2003 to 2013, the number of reported dorm fires increased by 24%. In the last 15 years, 89 college campus and off-campus fires have killed 126 people. The greatest number of deaths stems from off-campus fires, followed by Greek housing and on-campus residence halls. Today, fire departments across America respond to an average of 11 dorm fires per day. Dorm fires cost society about $14 million per year in property damage – not to mention the sobering costs of 32 civilian fire injuries and one civilian death on average.

Dorm fires are a rampant issue due to lack of proper fire safety education, poor fire prevention plans, and student negligence. Carelessness while using candles – prohibited goods in most dormitories – also contributed to a large number of dorm fire accidents. The greatest contributor to dorm fires, however, is cooking equipment. From 2009 to 2013, 86% of reported dormitory fires involved cooking equipment. Dorms aren’t alone in the high number of kitchen-related fires – the majority of all residential burn injuries occur in the kitchen.

How to Master Fire Safety on Campus

If you have your choice of where to live, look for a residence that has a full sprinkler fire system. No matter where you reside, there should be a smoke alarm inside each bedroom and on each level of the building. The best fire-safe schools use an interconnected system so that when one alarm goes off, they all do. Test the alarm on your own, or ask a maintenance person to test it once per month. Never tamper with your smoke alarms, cover them, or remove the batteries.

Learn your building’s emergency evacuation plan, and know where the nearest building exits are to your room. When the school has fire drills, treat them as if they are the real thing. Dorm fires are far from uncommon. Don’t assume a fire alarm sounding is a drill. There may be a real fire emergency in your building. To prevent the number one cause of dorm fires, practice safe cooking habits:

  • Cook only where permitted in designated cooking areas. Never use a plug-in grill or other cooking paraphernalia in bedrooms or common rooms. Stay in the kitchen while cooking.

  • Don’t cook while drowsy, preoccupied, or impaired by medication or alcohol. Careless cooking or falling asleep with food in the oven poses a high risk of accidental fires.

  • If using a grill or fire pit, check with your local fire department for any restrictions. San Diego has restrictions for grill use in hazardous areas. For example, grills and barbecues must be at least 30 feet away from grass, brush, grain, or forest-covered regions.

  • If you don’t know how to use a piece of cooking equipment, ask for help. Call a friend, parent, or a resident advisor for help operating ovens, grills, and electronic equipment. Fumbling around in the kitchen can lead to a dangerous fire accident.

On top of staying safe in the kitchen, be cautious of your electrical appliances. Ensure your dorm allows these appliances in your room, and don’t overload outlets. If there is a power outage, use flameless candles or flashlights instead of the real thing. Eliminating candles from campus residences would prevent dozens of fires. Always practice good fire safety techniques to keep you and your dorm-mates safe.

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