According to the Center for Campus Fire Safety, almost 80 percent of college fire fatalities happen off-campus. Students can crowd into older buildings without sprinklers or updated electrical systems. Alcohol abuse is also a common factor in causing fires.
Every dormitory or off-campus housing unit needs not only a computer, refrigerator and microwave, but also fire and carbon monoxide safety products and prevention education.
Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, claiming 400 lives and sending another 20,000 to the emergency room each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of fires in campus housing—dormitory, fraternity and sorority homes, has risen from 1,800 fires in 1998 to 3,300 in 2005.
These fires have caused an annual average of seven deaths and 46 injuries.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking equipment caused three of every four dormitory fires. The majority of the fatalities occurred in bedrooms.
Fires occur during the evenings and on weekends when students are in their residences.
Tracey Hawkins, expert and owner of Safety and Security Source, spoke at a safety awareness fair in September at UMKC.
Hawkins said there are several common factors in fire deaths.
Careless disposal of smoking materials, which include impaired judgment from alcohol consumption, control space heaters, curling and flat irons and other heated devices, overloaded electrical outlets, extension cords and power strips are common sources of fires.
Know your building’s evacuation plan in case something does go wrong.
Do not disable smoke alarms. Contact proper authorities to change batteries and cook in designated areas only and never leave cooking equipment unattended when in use.
Take special care with holiday and seasonal decorations, avoid using combustible materials and keep them away from heat sources.
Hawkins recommends students have a portable aerosol fire extinguisher in their rooms.
First Alert has a product called Tundra, a fire extinguisher spray that costs less than $20 and is recommended for every room.
These easy-to-use cans allow students to put out small fires.
Hawkins also recommends a device called Smokestopper. This rubber strip goes under doors to prevent smoke from getting inside a room. This is ideal for residence halls, apartments and off-campus housing.
For students who live in off-campus houses, a combination smoke-and-carbon monoxide-detector that talks is ideal. This device will say what the emergency is (fire or carbon monoxide) and which room is involved.
At night this alarm will alert you and calmly get you out safely.
It is a First Alert product available at K-Mart.
If you have more questions, you can contact Hawkins at 816-372-0939 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.