Fire EMS, Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighter Training, Fireground Safety

Connecting with the Community: Fire Safe at College

By Tom Kiurski

Many families are making plans for their children to attend college. Although there are a lot things for them to consider if their child goes away to college, some are so busy that they may overlook fire safety. It’s up to us to give them the reminder about college fire safety when speaking to groups that will include adults likely to have children heading off to college soon.

Since January 2000, there have been 108 campus-related fire deaths across the country; 81 percent of them occurred in off-campus housing. In addition, countless other have been injured and lost their housing, personal belongings and school work in fires. When selecting a school, families should make an informed decision about their child’s well-being and ask these questions when visiting campuses:

  • How many fires have occurred on campus in the past five years?

  • Are residence halls equipped with automatic fire sprinkler systems?

  • Does every student’s dorm room have a smoke alarm?

  • How often are fire drills conducted?

Although these measures are very important, parents can pass along other lifesaving information that to their college-bound children, many of whom may never been away from home for so long before. These include:

  • Be sure they keep the smoke alarms in their rooms in proper working order.

  • Make sure kids know what to do when smoke/fire alarms are sounded, and have them take all alarms seriously.

  • Stress the importance of preplanning in an emergency, and practicing the plan so things go smoothly if it needs to be put into action.

  • Don’t smoke or use candles in dorm rooms.

  • Don’t leave cooking items unattended on burners and keep a tight-fitting lid next to the pan you cook in. Also, use timers as a reminder for food in the oven or on the stove.

Some of the contributing factors leading to the off-campus fire fatalities often include: lack of automatic fire sprinklers, missing or disabled smoke alarms, careless disposal of smoking material, and alcohol.

Consider running an article about college fire safety tips in your local and high school newspapers. A one-page flyer or bookmark can be made up with these tips on them and handed out at speaking engagements. Contact your local cable television advertising department and ask them to tape a short informational segment.

Preparing for college can be a stressful time, and it can also bring out many emotions. Amidst the vast sea of paperwork that must be filled out, visits to make, and packing that needs to be done, it is also important to take the time to make sure your children’s safety is given a high priority by the college they plan to attend.

Tom Kiurski is a lieutenant, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999), is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.