It’s that time of year again: all across the country, college students are heading back to campus after their summer break, or maybe heading off to college for the first time. They’re (hopefully) learning things they’ll need to build a successful future, but taking a few minutes to learn college campus fire safety should be squeezed into their curriculum somewhere soon!

Since 2000, the CCFS (Center for Campus Fire Safety) has documented 92 fatal fires, which claimed a heartbreaking total of 132 victims. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) reports that local fire departments responded to an average of 4,070 structure fires in residence halls, dormitories, Greek housing (fraternity/sorority houses), barracks, and on-campus apartment complexes from 2013 to 2016. Structure fires in these college living spaces caused an average of one death, 32 injuries, and $15 million in property damage each year!

The NFPA report also gives data showing a steady increase in the number of fires in college student housing structures, and that the risk of fire is much greater on weekdays from 5pm to 9pm, or on weekends, and that the greatest number of fires occur in September and October, which is one of the reasons why the NFPA and the CCFS teamed up to name September “Campus Fire Safety Month”.

Making Fire Safety a Priority for College Students

This time of year is a busy one in the life of a college student; they’ll have new classes and maybe even new living spaces, and topics like ‘fire safety‘, ‘evacuation routes’, and ‘functional fire alarms‘ are unlikely to be on any college student’s list of things to study.

David Kurasz, the Executive Director of the NJFSAB (New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board) was quoted as saying, “Every second counts when a fire breaks out, especially if you are not familiar with your surroundings, as is the case with most new college students. The most important thing a college student can do is actively be aware of their surroundings and note the fire exits in their dorm and each building they visit on campus.”

Many people of all ages, not just college students, falsely believe that emergency exits and evacuation routes will be easy to find and follow if the event of an emergency. In the case of an actual fire however, there will be crowds, panic, and chaos, not to mention the chance of a power outage and thick clouds of smoke impairing their vision.

The Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy for the NFPA, Lorraine Carli, recently stated in an interview, “Campus Fire Safety Month provides a great opportunity to share materials and action steps, and foster a culture of awareness and preparedness about fire safety on our college campuses. The more prepared students are, the more we can reduce fire risk. As students settle into campus housing this fall, we encourage them to review fire safety tips to learn how to prevent fires, check smoke alarms, and prepare escape plans, and to share this important information with their friends and peers.”

To help college students practice effective fire safety and fire prevention, the NFPA and the CCFS have these tips:

  • Know and practice the evacuation plan for your building, including alternate evacuation routes.
  • Make sure your living space has multiple fully-functional smoke alarms, especially in sleeping areas, and on every level.
  • Test the smoke alarms in your living space monthly, and never disable or remove them for any reason.
  • Keep pathways, hallways, corridors, and common areas free of furniture, belongings, debris, and anything else that may result in a slower evacuation.
  • Abide by all rules and restrictions set by your residential building, your college campus, and the local fire department when cooking indoors.
  • Only cook in areas intended for cooking.
  • Never leave cooking appliances unattended when in use.
  • Only cook when you are alert, awake, and free from the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Abide by all rules and restrictions set by your residential building, your college campus, and the local fire department when using a fire pit or a grill.
  • Abide by all rules and restrictions set by your residential building, your college campus, and the local fire department when using electrical appliances, including halogen lamps and space heaters.
  • Keep combustible items away from heat sources.
  • Ensure that all appliances are plugged directly into wall electrical outlets; even small appliances such as humidifiers, heaters, toasters, and microwaves should never be plugged into an extension cord or a power strip.
  • Never overload electrical outlets, power strips, or extension cords.

College Campus Fire Safety Awareness and Safe Living Spaces

Campus Fire Safety Month is part of a college-focused fire safety awareness campaign called Campus Fire Safety for Students, a product of the partnership between the CCFS (Center for Campus Fire Safety) and the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).

The Campus Fire Safety for Students campaign raises awareness among college students about the threat and risk of fire, and works to put relevant resources in front of college students, their parents, and college staff members by encouraging and empowering them to take proactive measures to protect themselves and their peers from fire. The resources include informational and educational materials, such as checklists, tip sheets, videos, infographics, and more, and are formatted and designed in ways to be BOTH easily sharable digitally, via social media and/or college websites, AND easy to post in campus common areas and/or residence common areas.

You can get resources, materials, and more information about the Campus Fire Safety for Students campaign and Campus Fire Safety month from the “Campus Housing” page of the NFPA website, or by visiting the Center for Campus Fire Safety website.